Elmwood Expos building their own 'field of dreams'
"If you build it they will come." That is what the Elmwood Expos are hoping as they finish their new baseball field in time for their first game on the field June 10.
Adam Churchill with the Wisconsin Baseball Association Elmwood Expos team said the new field, called Sportsman Field, would not be possible without the support and hard work of people and businesses in the area.
Jason Severson, who has been on the Expos since it started in 1997, said without land to build a baseball field nothing would have been possible.
"Without the Rod and Gun Club, it wouldn't be possible," Severson said. "They gave us land. We have a 20-year lease and [it] will be renewable. It's something that is here to stay."
The field, located on State Highway 72 just outside of Elmwood, is in a beautiful area, Churchill said.
"A big reason we wanted to [be] here [Rod and Gun Club] is the backdrop-beautiful area," Churchill said. "We are really happy to work with the Rod and Gun in this situation because of the beautiful plot of land."
Churchill said they also relied on the support of many individuals to start work on Sportsman Field.
"Dean Holden was able to help us get started financially and helped us break ground," Churchill said.
Without John Crownhart, who owns John Crownhart Bulldozing and Excavating, the design and making of the baseball field would not have been possible, Churchill acknowledged.
"[Crownhart's] the brains behind all the dirt work," Churchill said. "He spent all his time and money to do the dirt work. We couldn't have done it without him."
Crownhart is looking forward to seeing the team play on its new field this season.
"They [Expos] did really good in the tournament in 2016, we were in the final four," Crownhart said. "It brought on talk about getting a field. I said I'd help."
While there had been talks about building a baseball field before, the good run the Expos had in 2016 helped move the dream forward.
"We played in the state semifinals, that's the best run we ever had," Churchill said. "That was another huge part in breaking ground on the field; we had a huge following."
Work on the field started the first weekend in October 2016. Churchill admits he had a lot to learn about making a baseball field.
"I'd never built a baseball field before," Crownhart said. "It was a challenge I was looking forward to."
Surveying and research on the correct grade to allow for proper drainage on the field were key components. Churchill went to other baseball fields to look at their designs and researched online.
A unique feature of Sportsman Field: it sits 4 feel lower than the fans' stands. Churchill said this was Crownhart's idea so that fans would have a better view of the game.
Having so many people able to help with the field made it a reality.
"Lots of times teams can't do this [build a field] because they don't have expertise," Churchill said. "The whole team was backing us. We've put in so many man hours, everyone on the whole team."
Churchill said Johan Lansing was instrumental in getting the concrete work done, Fairmount Santrol in Maiden Rock helped with funding for the purchase and hauling of the red baseball dirt and Pax Building Services made the dugouts. Also, the team sold sponsorship signs for $1,000 each and anyone who bought one will have a 4-by-8 foot wooden sign professionally painted and hung up at the field. There is still room available if someone would like to purchase a sign. Just message Elmwood Expos on Facebook for more information.
Previous to building Sportsman Field, the team played at the Elmwood High School baseball field and had a great relationship with the school. However, Churchill said they were unable to sell concessions and alcohol at their games so the new field will allow them to do that.
Churchill hopes the new field will bring some passion and interest in baseball back to the younger generation.
"Last year was one of the first years Elmwood didn't have a high school baseball team," Churchill said. "This year we combined with Plum City."
With a new field, Churchill is hoping baseball excitement will spread. They would like to open the field to others; eventually the high school could play on the field.
"Get excited about baseball again, give them a beautiful field again," Churchill said.
The first game on the field will be June 10 at 1 p.m. against the Plum City Blues. Churchill said the Blues are one of the Expos longest standing rivals, but the two teams are friends. It seems fitting that the first game at Sportsman Field will be against the Blues. Holden will throw out the first pitch which will be caught by Crownhart. Elmwood 2018 graduate Terressa Kern will sing the national anthem and American Legion Post 207 will present the colors.
The Expos hope that Sportsman Field will become part of the Elmwood community.
"I think the whole project embodies the spirit of town baseball," said Kirk Holt, manager of the Elmwood Expos. "Fostering baseball in the community is our primary focus as an organization and providing the fans with entertaining baseball is our top goal as a team."
Churchill referenced the movie "Field of Dreams'" line "if you build it they will come." The Expos hope by building this field the fans will come.
"This is our own field of dreams," Churchill said. "We feel like kids again making this field."