City leaders advancing goal to bring turf to Drake Field

With the pledged donations that would make up for just under 50% of the project costs, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell is requesting the City Council to approve $391,816 in contingency funds to get artificial turf installed as soon as possible.

Normally a busy spot in the spring months, Drake Field remains idle, with tarps covering the pitcher's mound and home plate. Dakota Wesleyan University played 16 baseball games before the season was called, and none at home. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The push for artificial turf at Drake Field is inching closer to becoming a reality.

In recent months, groups and individuals have pledged to donate $175,000 for the project that’s estimated to cost $391,816. With the pledged donations that would make up for just under 50% of the project costs, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell is requesting the Mitchell City Council to approve $391,816 in contingency funds to get artificial turf installed as soon as possible, considering the rapid rate of rising costs.

“We’re requesting the council to help fund the turf project now as costs keep rising for the material,” Powell said. “We’ve been fundraising for this for a couple years now, and costs just keep rising. It went up $19,000 since March, so we are fighting a losing battle by extending time to raise more money.”

The Mitchell City Council will consider the request during its regular meeting on Monday night at Mitchell City Hall.

If the project materializes, artificial turf would be installed in the infield, backstop area and bullpens, while the outfield remains grass. Installing artificial turf at Drake Field, which sits next to Cadwell Park, has been a shared goal among local baseball leaders and teams that utilize the baseball diamond.


Given the Mitchell Baseball Association teams share Drake Field with Dakota Wesleyan University baseball, the field is stressed year after year. Because of that, Sports Complex Supervisor Jeremy Nielsen said switching to a turf field would allow the field to handle the wide usage it undergoes on an annual basis with minimal maintenance compared to the existing grass.

“As soon as spring hits, Wesleyan is using it, followed by the youth baseball clubs. With how much use it has throughout the baseball season, there is very little time for us to provide maintenance we would like to,” Nielsen said. “But the turf field would require less maintenance than the grass, which would help us keep the field in top shape while it’s being used so much.”

Another major benefit with the artificial turf field is its ability to handle games and practices almost immediately after a rain event. With the existing grass field, Mitchell Post 18 head coach Luke Norden said games and practices have to be cancelled when it rains a day or two before the scheduled field use.

“The ability to not have to worry about cancelling games would be so nice. The turf just opens up so many opportunities for us to play and practice in elements that we previously weren’t able to on the grass field,” Norden said.

According to Nielsen, the artificial turf field can be ready within 15 minutes after a rain event.

“Your balls might get a little wet, but you can play right away after rain,” he said.

Nielsen pointed to the revenue opportunities it could open up for the city, as baseball teams in surrounding area towns that don’t have an artificial turf field could rent Drake Field following a weather event.

In addition, Nielsen noted the upgrades could also attract more tournaments to Mitchell, which already has one of the premier baseball venues in neighboring Cadwell Park.


“I know some college teams that have paid $600 in towns that are over two hours away just to be able to play their games on a field that can handle it after rain,” he said. “This would complement Cadwell Park very well, and I think it would bring quite a bit more tournaments to Mitchell.”

Jared McVay, of Freeman, warms up with his amateur baseball team, Freeman Blacksox, Saturday night at Drake Field prior to playing a game at the neighboring Cadwell Park. McVay is one of many who is competing in the State B amateur baseball tournament, in which Mitchell is hosting at Cadwell Park this year. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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