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Northwoods League makes its pitch to Mitchell park board

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A proposal to bring baseball to Mitchell just moved 90 feet closer to home plate.

The Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board heard a short presentation to expand the Northwood League, a wood-bat summer league for top tier collegiate players, to Drake Field in 2018 and beyond, and the board was receptive to the decision.

No formal approval was given on Thursday by the board, but the group of volunteer board members took the opportunity to ask Northwoods League Vice President Glen Showalter how a Mitchell team could operate at Drake Field. The Northwoods League would pay the city $10,000 to play at Drake Field, but the field is significantly smaller than its neighbor to the east, Cadwell Park.

"This may seem like a dumb question, but have you guys looked at Drake Field?" Asked committee member Brian Johnson.

Showalter expressed optimism about Drake, and Sports Complex Supervisor Dan Dobesh said the field's spectator seating capacity could be expanded from approximately 300 to more than 1,000 if additional elevated bleachers were added. Showalter said other brick and mortar improvements could be made to the restrooms and other aspects of the park in the future, and he convinced the board to allow the city to work with the league to craft a usage agreement to be reviewed at a later meeting.

The proposal would allow the league to host up to 40 home games at Drake in 2018, possibly expanding the league that spans from Iowa to Canada and North Dakota to Michigan into South Dakota. If ultimately approved, Mitchell could join Huron as a possible expansion team, as Huron received affiliate status last week.

Showalter said the agreement with the city could be drawn up rather quickly, perhaps in time for the board's April meeting. And the Northwoods League would bring some big-time baseball talent to Mitchell along with the new affiliate.

The Northwoods League has brought future Major League Baseball superstars through its ranks, with perennial Cy Young Award candidates Chris Sale and Max Scherzer and 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist spending time in the league.

While questions were asked on Monday, there were no negative comments from the board. And Showalter was looking forward to possibly bringing summer baseball and all that comes with it to Mitchell.

"Mascots to fireworks, good food, nice family fun," Showalter said.

Rec Center overhaul on the table

Amid an $8 million addition to the Mitchell Recreation Center in the form of an indoor aquatic facility, the board also heard several conceptual proposals to improve upon the existing facility.

Kevin Post, of Counsilman-Hunsaker, walked the board through a facility evaluation and offered four potential options to improve upon the Recreation Center. The options included repurposing the existing pool space, renovating the entire building and two separate plans to renovate and expand.

The plans ranged from $3.4 million to $5.5 million, and would bring more space and natural light to the fitness area and use the hallway space more efficiently.

No formal decisions were made Thursday evening, but board member Ryan Tupper suggested Post consider incorporating more meeting and community space.

"To me, I'm still hungry for what's the real driver, what's the real community need besides we need a facelift?" Tupper said.