By David Keech
May 21, 2015
The offseason saw many changes to enhance Witter Field with major investments made by both the Rafters and City of Wisconsin Rapids.
The motivation for the improvements to the ballpark was to make Witter Field shine as it plays host to the premier amateur baseball event in the country, the 2015 Marshfield Clinic Northwoods League All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 21st.
In partnership with the City of Wisconsin Rapids, one major project was started in the fall and completed this spring—painting of the main grandstand. Fans will notice a new color in the seating bowl, as the sea foam green color has been replaced with a light gray and the steps have been repainted with a non-slip material.
The second major addition was a new, high visibility, netting in the existing grandstand that completely covers five of the seven sections. The previous netting had seen its share of wear and tear, including numerous areas that had to be patched the past few seasons. In addition to the grandstand seating area, the netting also covers the existing Home Plate Club area as well.
In conjunction with the main grandstand netting, the Rafters removed the chain link fence above the first and third base dugouts (in front of sections A and G on the ends of the grandstand). The chain link was replaced with seven foot netting, matching the material installed behind home plate. The high visibility netting will provide fans sitting in those sections with a much clearer view of the action.
Limited space in the dugouts has presented a challenge to accommodate an entire 30-man Northwoods League roster in the past. The limited space forced players to sit on folding chairs outside of the dugout, presenting a safety concern. A new concrete base and three foot extension of the dugout rail has provided an area with bench seating for players to alleviate the congestion.
In addition to the new Point Craft River Area replacing the chain link fence on the third base side, new fencing was placed in the Fan Zone, extending beyond the Interactive Accessible Seating Area down the first baseline.
Portions of the plywood around the outfield fence were in various stages of decay from rot. With help from the community and the support of the City, the Rafters replaced a few boards and gave the entire outfield wall a new coat of cranberry paint.
To improve one of the group areas available at the ballpark, the Rafters added twelve, sixteen foot, picnic tables to the Pre-Game Picnic Area. The new tables are similar to the existing tables under the Ho-Chunk Gaming Nekoosa Rat Trap.
Fans driving past the ballpark on Lincoln Street or tailgating in the main parking lot will notice a new relic on the back of the main grandstand. Local artist Meredith Larsen created a beautiful 8’x20’ mural depicting the history of baseball in Wisconsin Rapids which incorporates the White Sox, Twins, Rafters, Lincoln High School, Assumption High School, and American Legion Post #9.