If everything goes the way Wausau Woodchucks owner Mark Macdonald hopes, Wausau could have a college softball summer league team playing at Athletic Park by 2024.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee Monday gave a preliminary nod to a plan to install AstroTurf on the infield of Athletic Park. Macdonald is pushing for that change because he wants to bring a women’s softball team to Athletic Park. They would play games when the Woodchucks are on the road.
The artificial field would be necessary in order to host both a softball and baseball team on the site. Macdonald says womens softball is a growing sport. The NCAA Division I final for softball drew a far bigger crowd than the baseball final did. And, Macdonald says, ESPN is really interested in broadcasting those games out of Athletic Park.
“This would be really nice for Wausau,” Macdonald says. “It would present us as a forward-thinking, progressive community.”
Wausau Woodchucks adding softball
Parks Director Jamie Polley says adding the artificial infield would allow more user groups to use the field as well. That includes area softball groups. There would be less maintenance and setup between games.
Though everyone was supportive of the women’s team, some committee members had environmental concerns about the artificial turf, such as whether or not it contains PFAS — something that’s been on Wausonian’s minds since the city announced elevated levels in its wells earlier this year.
Macdonald says because AstroTurf is higher quality, he can obtain a certified letter that there is no PFAS in the manufacturing of the turf. And, he says, often used turf gets used by cities to fill medians or other uses where grass doesn’t grow. So often the used turf doesn’t end up in the landfill.
Macdonald says the team would play about 40 games per year, and 20 of those would be at home. That should be easily accommodated by them playing when the Woodchucks are on the road, Macdonald says.
The two teams might have to share a clubhouse for the first year until a second clubhouse can be built for the women’s team, he says. “They’re worthy of just as nice of a facility as the men,” Macdonald says.
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