Antigo’s senior baseball facility, Kretz Brothers Park, a cornerstone of the community since its inception more than 26 years ago, has hosted a number of memorable teams and games, but with any venerable facility, updates need to be made and the Antigo Dugout Club has begun the process of accumulating the funds needed for a rather large one, a new lighting system.
Minus a few bulbs, the park is operating with the original light setup from its inception in the fall of 1994.
With a number of repairs done over the years and more likely looming, the cost of running the older setup continues to be high. Throw in much longer-lasting energy efficient bulbs and improved technology prevalent in the market, and the Dugout Club has decided that now is the right time to move forward with the project.
“The new LED style light is a cleaner, brighter light and way more cost efficient to operate,” Dugout Club board member and treasurer Chad Matuszewski said. “This would help with our overall operating costs. The life expectancy of the LED setup is also much longer.”
The club got a recent boost, when the Elwyn Remington Foundation jumpstarted the fundraising effort with a $25,000 donation, as the foundation continues its community work into 2021.
It’s a great initial boost for a project that will likely run in the area of $150,000-$175,000.
“We will have to do some major fundraising of our own,” Matuszewski said. “This is a terrific start, and we thank the foundation for their donation. We are still in the initial stages, and we will look at different fundraising options, support from community members and their input.”
The hope is for the everything to be in place for the lights by the fall of 2022.
For the Remington Foundation, the Kretz Park project and the Dugout Club represents what their work is all about.
“The Dugout Club supports so many children, so many families and brings a lot people to the area in the summer which helps all the businesses,” Remington Foundation board member Jason Hilger said. “It’s great to have kids playing ball, we love to see it.”
It’s also a chance to help preserve the future of the ballpark, one that is planning for a busy 2021.
In addition to being the home of the 2019 and still-defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Antigo High School team, the park also hosts the American Legion and Junior Legion teams in the summer, with the Class AA State Tournament being held in Antigo July 28 through Aug. 3.
A number of Babe Ruth games are also be slated for the spring and summer months, and Kretz is now home to the Antigo Polar Bears of the popular Badger Amateur Baseball Association (BABA), a wood bat league that generally holds games Sunday afternoons.
“It’s a historic park, which has been in the community many years and supported by many people,” Hilger added. “It’s great to see all the donor signs around the park, and I look forward to seeing everyone there. The Legion Tournament will bring a lot of people in.”
With that expectation, the Dugout Club also plans to use any profits from the Legion state tourney toward the light project.
“It’s going to be a whirlwind of games,” Matuszewski noted. “But we love to have as many teams play there as possible.”
The donation is the start of another campaign of generosity for the Remington Foundation, which was founded in 1989 by the late Al Remington as a way of giving back to Antigo and the surrounding communities.
Now spearheaded by Jeanne Lucht and a board of directors, which includes Hilger, Teri Melzer, Mark Bradley, Maureen Winter and Charles Melzer, the foundation annually awards a number of grants.
“This was a great way to help kickstart the light project,” Hilger said. “We look forward to helping the community with many public improvement grants in the future.”
On a yearly basis, the Remington Foundation awards Antigo, Wittenberg-Birnamwood, White Lake, Elcho and Antigo Northcentral Technical College students scholarships, while a total of 19 area fire departments receive funds every year to upgrade equipment.
Local groups who have projects in progress that benefit the community are eligible to receive grants.
“Our long range goal is to continue to make Antigo a better place to live,” Lucht said.
Meanwhile, the Dugout Club is well underway with preparations for its numerous baseball programs that are returning after a year away due to COVID-19.
“The board is preparing to make sure it’s as safe as possible based on current conditions,” Matuszewski said. “We are excited to get the kids back on the field playing baseball.”
Little League, Babe Ruth and Stallions traveling baseball will all field teams this season and in-person signups are slated for yet today at Parsons of Antigo from 3-5:30 p.m.
Any questions can be answered at that time, but of course residents can also register their child online at the city of Antigo website, www.antigo-city.org, or can visit www.antigodugoutclub.org for more information.
For more information on the Kretz Park light project or to donate, Matuszewski can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 715-219-5525.