After more than 10 seasons and over 800 games, Sprenger Stadium will get new turf, possibly as soon as the 2021 season.
City Council voted unanimously Aug. 12 to spend about $600,000 to replace the artificial turf at the Lake Erie Crushers’ ballpark by 2022. Council also left the option open to replace it sooner, possibly after the end of next season.
Lake Erie Crushers Owner Tom Kramig initially approached the city in 2017 about replacing the turf as it was nearing the end of its eight-year warranty, said city Finance Director Bill Logan.
"It'll ultimately be up to council when to move forward with this," Logan said. "It's time. The turf is getting slightly torn in some places."
The $12.1 million stadium at 2009 Baseball Blvd. opened June 2, 2009. The 5,000-seat stadium is owned by the city, which is responsible for most of its maintenance and upkeep, including the turf replacement.
The Crushers are one of 10 independent baseball teams in the Frontier League. They pay $250,000 rent annually to the city, making $50,000 monthly payments from May through September. The agreement between the team and the city runs through Oct. 31, 2024. The city spends between $25,000 and $50,000 for maintenance or improvements, Logan said.
The existing "Tiger Turf" is made up of a straw-like fiber or strands called monofilaments, with a mixture of sand and small rubber pellets for its base. The turf is slightly more than three years past its eight-year warranty. It's showing signs of wear and tear and even has noticeable ripped seams around first base, home plate, the pitcher's mound and sliding pits near the bases.
Most of the artificial 131,000 square feet of turf is green to reflect the color of the grass. Along the baselines, it's a light orange or brown to give the appearance of dirt.
Paul Siegworth, Crushers vice president of stadium operations, said the turf is like the carpet in your house. The turf has served its purpose, and it's time to replace it.
"After a while, the wear and tear begins to take its toll on the high-traveled areas,” said Siegworth, who has groomed and nurtured the turf for all 11 of its years. “The fibers don't want to stand up anymore.”
The turf will be separate pieces for the infield and outfield. Pieces in each field will be held together by seams. Some of the current seams are coming apart, Siegworth said.
Before a recent doubleheader against the Gateway Grizzlies from the St. Louis area, Siegworth filled in some areas with the small rubber pellets and sand near home plate after noticing slight depressions around the batter's boxes so the batters wouldn’t be standing in a hole, he said.
“The rubber pellets, mixed with the sand I'm putting down, gives them the ability to stand up better and make the field less slippery when it rains,” he said.
The city received two quotes for the work in 2017 — one from Pittsburgh-based AstroTurf for $516,115, and the other from SCGfields of Brecksville for $578,000.
The city will determine which account to use to pay for the project after the city decides which company to hire to do the work, Logan said.
Kramig said he hopes the city will include the Crushers in discussions about the new turf.
"On our field, some of the seams holding together the turf are trying to come apart and open," Kramig said. "If that were to happen during a game, that could create a problem. If we allowed players to wear metal spikes on the turf, there'd be a lot of rips."
Eight of 10 ballparks in the league have artificial turf, said Kramig, and it's important for it to be maintained.
Crushers first baseman Jake Vieth, a first-year player, said that the turf condition at Sprenger Stadium is fairly "comparable" to other ballparks around the league.
The field also has been used by the Lorain County Community College, Avon High School and St. Edward High School baseball teams. During 2010 and 2011, Cleveland State University’s baseball team played at the stadium, but CSU dropped its baseball program after the 2011 season.
Since 2012, the NCAA’s Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament has been held at the ballpark in late May.
"Having artificial turf allows you to do so many things," Kramig said. "If it rains, it still allows you to play the game. The turf's base of the small rubber pellets and sand better absorbs and provides drainage for the field. But like anything else, it gets old and wears out. That's what's happening here."
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