CDA baseball deal in the works

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COEUR d’ALENE — The city of Coeur d’Alene and American Legion Baseball are close to an agreement that would build the program a permanent home at Ramsey Field by next season.

A proposed memorandum of understanding being crafted between the two parties will detail terms American Legion would need to play its home games on the southwestern corner of park, adjacent the Kroc Center — an MOU both sides said is nearly complete.

“It’s a promise to have Ramsey ready,” Mayor Sandi Bloem said of the agreement. “The promise is to be done by the 2013 season.”

The MOU could be ready next week and could go before the council for approval after that.

If approved, construction on the new ballpark would start in August, after the legion season ends and around the same time that crews begin putting in a parking lot south of City Hall, the qausi-first step of the McEuen Field redevelopment project.

Agreeing on a permanent home for baseball would also address what’s been one of the bigger concerns for some people regarding the McEuen Field park plan.

The three components of the plan that drew the most public criticism after it was unveiled were the proposed Tubbs Hill alterations, removing the Third Street boat launch and removing the American Legion Baseball diamond without a concrete plan for a replacement diamond.

Since then, changes to Tubbs Hill were dropped and the boat launch, with modified trailer parking, was kept. Now a replacement diamond could soon be secured.

American Legion Baseball would also have to sign off on the MOU when it’s completed. The MOU will include specifications for the diamond, such as a press box and lights.

“At this stage, if everything can be worked out with the city — if everything fits and the field fits and everything works — our board is willing to work with the city on that Ramsey location,” said Dennis Spencer, American Legion Baseball board member.

An estimated cost of the facility hasn’t been nailed down, but Bloem said it will be less expensive than building a diamond from scratch, considering the infrastructure for baseball is already established at the softball-friendly Ramsey Park, and bleachers and other pieces from the McEuen diamond could be transferred over.

The city’s urban renewal agency, Lake City Development Corp., could consider pledging more financial support for the McEuen Field project so the city could spend its own money on the replacement diamond, the agency said this week. LCDC can’t fund the diamond directly because the proposed site is just outside its boundary.

If Ramsey Park becomes the new home for American Legion Baseball, it doesn’t mean legion clubs wouldn’t play at the state-of-the-art baseball complex at Cherry Hill Park.

Should the proposed $2 million to $3 million complex be built, legion squads could play there as well, fundraising organizer Ron Ouren said. Fundraising for that facility, meanwhile, is just kicking off.

Not everyone would be willing to sign off on the deal.

The baseball diamond is tied to the McEuen Field redevelopment project, which has split the City Council the entire year.

Councilman Ron Edinger has opposed the park plan from the get-go, and has been adamant that the city must uphold its pledge to provide an equal or better replacement diamond before removing the McEuen Field diamond.

Edinger said he’s waiting to see how the city plans to fund the new field before deciding which way he’ll vote. But the retired umpire, who has a family with deep baseball roots, admitted the current diamond sitting downtown near the lake and Tubbs Hill will be difficult to better, regardless of what’s built.

“I’m not convinced it’s equal or better,” he said.

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