After the grandstand at Tink Larson Field in Waseca burned in the spring of last year, the city began taking steps toward rebuilding it.
Then came the flood.
More than a foot of rain fell on the southern Minnesota town over two September days, with high water flooding three of every four homes and businesses. Suddenly, rebuilding a baseball field — even a historic one that had been part of the city’s fabric since 1938 — didn’t seem so urgent.
“There were a lot of discussions about price tags,” said Mark Christiansen, a Waseca City Council member. “Kind of, ‘I have to fix my basement, so why would you spend money on a grandstand?’ So we put it on hold.”
But not for long.
A group of local residents asked the council to give its blessing for a major fundraising drive, which got underway in January. Now, just seven months later, the group has nearly all of its $1.9 million goal in hand, and a groundbreaking for the new field is set for Wednesday.
“We said, ‘We must rebuild,’ ” said Duane Rathmann, one of the key figures in the fundraising campaign. “This is an iconic structure; it’s an amenity that’s been well-known for a long time. And people really rallied to that.”
The project got some big-league support from the Minnesota Twins, who pledged $100,000. The Pohlad Family Foundation contributed an additional $60,000.
Even the NFL got into the act. The Minnesota Vikings pledged $50,000 toward the project, and last week it was announced that the Super Bowl Host Committee would kick in $50,000.
The city of Waseca is contributing $150,000, and the state has issued $375,000 in bonds. Insurance will cover another $800,000 or so. The rest came from hundreds of local residents and businesses, as well as baseball fans from across the nation who had been touched by Clinton “Tink” Larson, 75, for whom the field is named.
Larson has coached high school and amateur baseball teams in the Waseca area for more than 50 years, winning a state high school championship in 1990. He still serves as a volunteer coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and helps out with the Waseca High School team.
For decades, Larson single-handedly kept up the field at the stadium, built in 1938 as a project of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration. It was named after Larson in 1994.
Larson said last week that he’s excited for the groundbreaking.
“It means we’re finally to the point where we can get it rebuilt,” he said. “The flood slowed things down. Obviously the city was very concerned with getting things taken care of along those lines.
“We can really thank [Twins President] Dave St. Peter and Bryan Donaldson [the team’s senior director of community relations]. They were the first ones that jumped on hard and threw their support behind this rebuilding.”
The rebuilt stadium will have a real Twins flavor, at least in the seating areas. The 200 seats that will be installed under the grandstand roof came from Twins’ ballparks — 100 from the old Metrodome and 100 more from the center field area of Target Field after a recent renovation.
In the days after the flood, Christiansen said, “We were not looking at the true value of that place and what it means to Waseca. Baseball’s very important to Waseca.
“Now we’ll have a structure that, hopefully, when I’m long gone, they’ll be glad we did this.”
Rathmann echoed that thought.
“This means everything,” he said. “We certainly went through a number of tough events.
“But sometimes you’ve just got to create some good news out of bad news.”