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Rascals’ stadium turf proposal: home run or foul ball?

TurfThe River City Rascals are proposing a change in turf – from natural grass to artificial turf at the T.R. Hughes Ballpark.

At a work session on Sept. 24, the O’Fallon City Council heard a presentation from Dan Dial, Rascals’ president and general manager, about the proposed turf conversion.

Dial started his presentation by addressing the team’s future.

“We’re on our way up, there’s no doubt about it,” Dial said. “For a couple years there, we were struggling, (but) we’ve turned a corner. Our ticket revenue increased by 18 percent this year, our attendance went up by 10,000 people.”

Dial listed a number of outcomes that would result from converting the field to artificial turf, including lower maintenance costs. Dial also proposed a large increase in additional uses of the ballpark due to the durability of the turf. In 2015, he said 128 events were held at the ballpark. By 2020, with a turf field, he said that number could be over 200.

Steve Gomric, general manager for the Gateway Grizzlies, joined Dial at the work session and spoke in support of the Rascals’ proposal.

“A grass field needs to rest; you can play games for six days, but you’re going to need to stay off of it for six days,” Gomric said. “With a turf field, you don’t have to rest for six hours.”

The durable nature of an artificial turf field also could mean fewer games rained-out. And artificial turf would mean the field could be used for other sports, including lacrosse, soccer and football, in addition to concerts and conventions. The increased use of the field would impact O’Fallon businesses, according to Dial.

“They’re eating in our restaurants, they’re getting gas in our gas stations,” Dial said of the ballpark’s patrons. “That’s something that’s going to continue.”

Currently there is no formal proposal on the table; however, the city council will be discussing the matter moving forward.

The current estimate is that the project would cost the city $880,515.32. The Rascals are proposing an increase to their yearly lease of $50,000 for a period of 10 years, bringing their yearly payment to the city up to $200,000 per year and shaving $500,000 off the price of the turf conversion.

O’Fallon’s Director of Communications Tom Drabelle said the current lease with the Rascals says that the city does not have to investigate the feasibility of the funding and installation of an artificial turf until 2017.

“If we do not install the turf, the rent amount for the lease years commencing in 2020, 2021 and 2022, which is the last three years of their current lease, would be reduced from $150,000 per year to $100,000 per year,” Drabelle said of the current contract.

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