Turks May Play At JMU, HHS In ’08

3/29/2007 – Daily News Record

Team Needs Home While Madison Builds Field Written By Brent Johnson Daily News Record Harrisonburg – For at least one summer, the Harrisonburg Turks will probably be homeless. But owner Bob Wease has a few ideas about where his team might find temporary residence. Wease said Wednesday that his Valley League baseball team will likely split its 22 to 24 home games between James Madison University’s Long Field and a local high school in 2008 while JMU constructs its new $5 million baseball and softball complex on the site of Memorial Stadium, the Turks’ home since 1948. The Turks then plan to move into the new facility – also to be called Memorial Stadium – in 2009. In 2008, Wease said, the Turks will probably play at least nine games at Long Field on either a Saturday or a Sunday each weekend. In a switch from tradition, the games would be played in the afternoon rather than night because the stadium doesn’t have lights. Wease said he hopes to play the remaining games at either Harrisonburg or Turner Ashby high schools. There is a slight possibility, Wease said, that the Turks could still play at Memorial Stadium in 2008, even during construction, because he was told that JMU might build the new complex behind the center and right field walls of the current field. "But I’m guessing we’ll have to find a place to play," Wease said in his office at Wease Auto Sales, his used cars dealership. Neither vice president Charlie King, who oversees sports at JMU, nor athletic director Jeff Bourne could be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Madison officials said in January they hope to begin construction within about two years. But university spokesman Don Egle said Wednesday that the school won’t have detailed plans – including when construction will begin or how long it will take – until Gov. Tim Kaine signs off on the state budget. While the General Assembly approved the funds this month, the governor must sign the measure during his april 4 veto session before the money can be allocated. Wease – who played baseball for Madison from 1071-72 – said he was told construction will likely begin in September and will probably last a year. Asked if he’s happy with the arrangement, Wease repeatedly called it a "win-win situation." "Oh my goodness, yes," Wease said. "I’m just pleased to death JMU is doing this. I think it’s a good situation. Not just for JMU, but for the city and the Turks…. "We’ll work around it." Wease said he hasn’t talked to either Harrisonburg or Turner Ashby about playing at one of those schools in 2008, although he said he’s "sure" he can work something out with HHS. Both Harrisonburg’s baseball field, which seats 1,036, and Long Field which seats 1,200, would be big enough for the NCAA-sanctioned team. The Turks averaged 800 fans a game last summer, Wease said. To use HHS’s field, Harrisonburg school board chairman Michael Walsh said Wease would have to write a letter to the super-intendent, who would then make a recommendation to the school board. "I’m sure the school board would entertain the discussion," Walsh said. Wease added that he also likes the field at Turner Ashby – althought he’d have to work around the schedule of the Bridgewater Reds, a Rockingham County Baseball League franchise that plays home games at TA. "It’s a good place to play," Wease said. "We woulc probably draw a lot of people there." Memorial Stadium, which was HHS’s home field until the high school moved to Garbers Church Road in 2005, was built as a home for the Turks, paid for by donations from the public and named for the 139 area veterans who died in World War II. JMU, which bought the property for $17 million in June 2006, has said the Turks are welcome to play in the new stadium. The Valley League consists of collegiate standouts from throughout the nation.