Turks Headed To Long Field

08/26/2008 – Daily News Record

Written By Dustin Dopirak Daily News Record Sports Desk Wease Finds Home for 2009 HARRISONBURG – In the end, Bob Wease chose accessibility over lights, and now the Harrisonburg Turks’ owner can only wait and see how it will affect his bottom line. Wease said Monday that his Valley Baseball League team will play at James Madison University’s Long Field next summer, meaning the Turks will become the only VBL franchise with home games in the afternoon rather than at night. The arrangement, though, is only temporary. Wease said the Turks plan to move back to a brand-new Memorial Stadium the following summer. JMU, which owns the 60-year-old ballpark, is scheduled to tear it down next month and replace it with a $9.5 million baseball/softball facility in 2010. Until then, Wease had two primary options: Long Field, which has no lights, and Harrisonburg High School, whose field is situated on a hill that might prove a daunting walk for some of the Turks’ fans. Wease opted for easy access – and possibly smaller crowds – over night games, forging an agreement with Madison last week. "There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to us playing at JMU," Wease said Monday. "But I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons." Wease said the Turks will play their home games at 5 p.m. Harrisonburg – and other VBL teams – typically play at 7:30 p.m. Wease said he has asked the VBL to schedule the Turks’ home games on weekends whenever possible. Obviously, 5 p.m. starts on weekdays could cause a significant problem with attendance because fans with 9-5 jobs would be hard-pressed to get to the ballpark in time. Wease admits he isn’t sure how much of a problem that will be. "To be honest with you, I haven’t the slightest idea what our attendance is going to be like," he said. "I do think on Saturdays and Sundays we may draw some people, though maybe not as many as we would for a 7:30 game. But then, some older people may want to go at 5 instead of coming out for a 7:30 game because that puts them home by 8 or 9 o’clock. So we’ll just wait and see what our attendance is going to be." It was because of his concern for the team’s elderly fans, he said, that he chose JMU over HHS, which does have lights. The HHS baseball field is separated from the parking lot by an uphill walkway that measures well over 100 yards. "I probably could’ve played at Harrisonburg High School," said Wease, who stressed that he was very impressed by the field itself. "But that would have been such a hassle. We have a lot of elderly people that come to games, and that’s such a long walk. We would’ve had to get plenty of golf carts to get them back and forth." Wease wanted no part of that, and he also saw a few more benefits to playing at Long Field. For one thing, the infield is made of artificial turf, which means less day-to-day maintenance than was necessary at the all-grass Memorial Stadium. Plus, because the only dirt is around the bases, which can be easily covered, rain won’t cause mud, which means fewer rainouts. And as much as the starting times could be a problem for the Turks’ attendance, Wease is interested to see just how much of a problem playing at 5 p.m. will be. "I wanted to tread the waters and just see what kind of crowd you could get if you played at 5 in the afternoon," he said. "And it could work out for teams that come from Covington and Lexington and Haymarket and Fauquier, because they could be back home by 9:30 or 10 instead of 2 a.m." JMU currently plays its games at Long Field, but the university had no problems sharing the facility. The only stipulation: Athletic director Jeff Bourne said the Turks would have to yield to Madison coach Spanky McFarland’s baseball camps. "All of us really agreed that it was a good move for him," Bourne said. "… It’s a very good relationship, I think, that we have with the Turks. Our goal is to find ways to make it work for him in the interim before the new facility is built." JMU and the Turks will have to make sure they don’t get into trouble with any NCAA rules. Should McFarland or any members of his staff come into contact with any recruitable athletes – in this case junior-college players, whom Wease often recruits – that would count against the permissible number of times they could contact that player. Bourne said JMU will not charge the Turks rent, but the team will reimburse Madison for maintenance. Until three years ago, Memorial Stadium was part of the old Harrisonburg High campus. When HHS moved to a new building, JMU bought the old high school, including Memorial Stadium. The Dukes’ baseball team, though, continued to play at Long Field on the main campus. Valley League Commissioner Dave Biery could not be reached for comment. Written By Dustin Dopirak Daily News Record Sports Desk HARRISONBURG – In the end, Bob Wease chose accessibility over lights, and now the Harrisonburg Turks’ owner can only wait and see how it will affect his bottom line. Wease said Monday that his Valley Baseball League team will play at James Madison University’s Long Field next summer, meaning the Turks will become the only VBL franchise with home games in the afternoon rather than at night. The arrangement, though, is only temporary. Wease said the Turks plan to move back to a brand-new Memorial Stadium the following summer. JMU, which owns the 60-year-old ballpark, is scheduled to tear it down next month and replace it with a $9.5 million baseball/softball facility in 2010. Until then, Wease had two primary options: Long Field, which has no lights, and Harrisonburg High School, whose field is situated on a hill that might prove a daunting walk for some of the Turks’ fans. Wease opted for easy access – and possibly smaller crowds – over night games, forging an agreement with Madison last week. "There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to us playing at JMU," Wease said Monday. "But I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons." Wease said the Turks will play their home games at 5 p.m. Harrisonburg – and other VBL teams – typically play at 7:30 p.m. Wease said he has asked the VBL to schedule the Turks’ home games on weekends whenever possible. Obviously, 5 p.m. starts on weekdays could cause a significant problem with attendance because fans with 9-5 jobs would be hard-pressed to get to the ballpark in time. Wease admits he isn’t sure how much of a problem that will be. "To be honest with you, I haven’t the slightest idea what our attendance is going to be like," he said. "I do think on Saturdays and Sundays we may draw some people, though maybe not as many as we would for a 7:30 game. But then, some older people may want to go at 5 instead of coming out for a 7:30 game because that puts them home by 8 or 9 o’clock. So we’ll just wait and see what our attendance is going to be." It was because of his concern for the team’s elderly fans, he said, that he chose JMU over HHS, which does have lights. The HHS baseball field is separated from the parking lot by an uphill walkway that measures well over 100 yards. "I probably could’ve played at Harrisonburg High School," said Wease, who stressed that he was very impressed by the field itself. "But that would have been such a hassle. We have a lot of elderly people that come to games, and that’s such a long walk. We would’ve had to get plenty of golf carts to get them back and forth." Wease wanted no part of that, and he also saw a few more benefits to playing at Long Field. For one thing, the infield is made of artificial turf, which means less day-to-day maintenance than was necessary at the all-grass Memorial Stadium. Plus, because the only dirt is around the bases, which can be easily covered, rain won’t cause mud, which means fewer rainouts. And as much as the starting times could be a problem for the Turks’ attendance, Wease is interested to see just how much of a problem playing at 5 p.m. will be. "I wanted to tread the waters and just see what kind of crowd you could get if you played at 5 in the afternoon," he said. "And it could work out for teams that come from Covington and Lexington and Haymarket and Fauquier, because they could be back home by 9:30 or 10 instead of 2 a.m." JMU currently plays its games at Long Field, but the university had no problems sharing the facility. The only stipulation: Athletic director Jeff Bourne said the Turks would have to yield to Madison coach Spanky McFarland’s baseball camps. "All of us really agreed that it was a good move for him," Bourne said. "… It’s a very good relationship, I think, that we have with the Turks. Our goal is to find ways to make it work for him in the interim before the new facility is built." JMU and the Turks will have to make sure they don’t get into trouble with any NCAA rules. Should McFarland or any members of his staff come into contact with any recruitable athletes – in this case junior-college players, whom Wease often recruits – that would count against the permissible number of times they could contact that player. Bourne said JMU will not charge the Turks rent, but the team will reimburse Madison for maintenance. Until three years ago, Memorial Stadium was part of the old Harrisonburg High campus. When HHS moved to a new building, JMU bought the old high school, including Memorial Stadium. The Dukes’ baseball team, though, continued to play at Long Field on the main campus. Valley League Commissioner Dave Biery could not be reached for comment.


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