The McEuen baseball field might get a new home.
The Coeur d’Alene City Council voted Tuesday night, after a closed-door session, to put a $400,000 down payment on 12 acres that adjoins the existing Ramsey Park.
The city or the Coeur d’Alene Parks Foundation now have three years to pay off the $967,000 property that was once used by the East Side Highway District and includes a large pit.
“This is the first step in the McEuen plan to provide space for baseball,” City Finance Director Troy Tymesen said.
The city wants to eventually move the McEuen baseball diamond to the new Ramsey location.
In 2002, the council adopted a new master plan for sweeping changes to McEuen Playfield that eliminates the baseball field. The decision angered many American Legion members who wanted to keep baseball at the park nestled between City Hall and Tubbs Hill with a lakefront view. The city promised not to move the baseball field until a replacement of equal or better value was found.
City Parks Director Doug Eastwood said the Ramsey land is the spot.
“Acquiring this property was critical in starting the whole (McEuen) process,” Eastwood said.
The proposal is to develop two baseball fields at the Ramsey location, one that would meet minor league standards. The other field would be the same size but wouldn’t have the same fences, seating or player amenities required by the minor league.
Eastwood said that Coeur d’Alene isn’t currently soliciting a minor league baseball team, similar to the Spokane Indians, but that the city wants a field capable of accommodating such a team if one ever becomes available.
“If one ever decided to move, I bet they would come to Coeur d’Alene in a heartbeat,” Eastwood said.
Having a minor league team would bring entertainment to town and boost interest in the sport, meaning Little League programs would grow, Eastwood said.
The existing Ramsey Park already has softball and soccer fields, tennis courts, basketball and a park area for picnics. Besides American Legion, Eastwood anticipates that local high school teams would play on the fields, as well as a North Idaho College team if the school ever reinstates its baseball program.
Yet nobody is sure where the city will get the nearly $4 million to develop the two fields. And Tymesen said the city and the Parks Foundation still are figuring out ways to pay for the Ramsey property, which is owned by brothers John and Wally Adams, who also own Coeur d’Alene Tractor Co.
The Adams brothers have agreed to take the $400,000 down payment from the city and then accept monthly payments so the city doesn’t have to involve a bank, Tymesen said.
The property has a commercially zoned section of the property that fronts Ramsey Road that city officials said would work for a fast-food restaurant.
Councilman Ron Edinger, who wasn’t at Tuesday’s council meeting because he was celebrating his 47th wedding anniversary, is opposed to moving the baseball field from McEuen because he believes it will hurt downtown businesses.
“It will chase them all down to Silver Lake and Appleway, the fast-food areas,” Edinger said.
He also questioned where the city was going to get the money to buy and develop the Ramsey fields, especially when the city also wants a new library, community center and equipment for the Fire Department. Coeur d’Alene is currently polling residents to see how receptive they are to passing a bond, which means additional property taxes, to pay for some of these projects.
Edinger added that the city had the opportunity to buy the Ramsey property about nine years ago from the highway district when the price tag was about $370,000. Now, he said, the city is paying nearly three times as much money.
Coeur d’Alene American Legion President Jamie Duman wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but she said during the 2002 public hearings that McEuen field is the legion’s home and that it wants to stay downtown.
At the time, baseball dad Jim Solomon suggested the city put the issue on the ballot, which the council rejected. During a July 2002 council meeting, Solomon told members that he had talked to about 300 parents and residents about the plan to move the baseball field from McEuen to Ramsey.
“The feedback I’m getting is, ‘Are you suggesting we go from playing near the lake to playing near the dump?’ ” Solomon told the council.
Just before that 2002 meeting, the council agreed to pay $30,000 to secure for one year an option to buy the 12-acre Ramsey Road property. The city split the cost with Lake City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency. The city then requested another year-long extension to buy the land.