The massive one-day summer monsoon that deluged the Milwaukee area a few years ago made misery for all, especially those in the North Shore as flooding did incredible damage at Nicolet High School and also exposed great difficulties in the sewer systems in communities such as Shorewood and Whitefish Bay.
But as part and parcel of the sewer reconstruction project in Bay, there is a silver lining. Sometime in early fall, people will walk past Cahill Park and notice something different about the baseball field. They'll see the new red-brick fencing, the new retaining wall, the sunken dugouts, and the shiny new FieldTurf infield and realize that they have something special here.
Because Cahill, thanks to a cooperative $400,000 effort separate from the infrastructure work, will be the newest, shiniest, most state-of-the-art prep baseball field in the area next to Kapco Park in Mequon. And even though it's not finished yet, it is so highly thought of, that it has been awarded a WIAA sectional assignment for 2014.
'We're going to make a little history,' Blue Dukes coach Jay Wojcinski said.
Park serves as flood retention
You could almost see the smile on Wojcinski's face over the phone. That's because the Blue Dukes were essentially homeless this summer, sharing Aaron Field as their home away from home with their neighbors, Shorewood, as Cahill resembled nothing so much as a big hole in the ground for much of the summer.
'It's a project of the village, the district and of private sources,' Bay Athletic Director John Gustavson said. 'It addresses the water table in the area, which is very important. We lost the field for the season due to the project but then we decided to put in the turf (artificial) field.
'But it is in a flood retention area so that's why the field is sunken. The dugouts are actually partially below street level.'
A primary private source of funding for the project is the Friends of Bay Baseball. A key member of that organization, Carl Fuda, who was a big help in the Lubar Football and Soccer Stadium project of a few years earlier, said the two renovation projects had similar financing and planning models.
'You've got to have collaboration, that's the only way you can make something like this work,' he said. 'It's a plan we've used twice now and it seems to be working.'
A key component of the project that people will notice right away is the gradual grade of the field pitching toward the outfield fence. Outside of the outfield fence will be a stormwater retention pond.
'The plan is, is that the pond will be dry about 99.9 percent of the time,' Fuda said. In short, it's meant to address storms like the disaster of a few years ago. Storms that hopefully come around only once in a hundred years.
As noted, the field itself is actually about two feet below street level, and it will have the popular FieldTurf infield surface, which has been such a big hit at Kapco and other parks in the area. As Fuda said, 'there will be grass everywhere else.'
'The maintenance costs will actually be significantly less,' he added.
Field should be ready in fall
The project is actually a bit behind schedule, Fuda said, because of the damp and cool summer, but come September, it will be ready for use.
Gustavson and the rest of the Bay athletic department are excited.
'I'm going to be very interested in seeing how this all looks when it's done,' Gustavson said. 'I've seen a drawing of it but to see it actually physically in place will be really something.'
Cahill will still retain the homey nature of the residential neighborhood that it resides in, Fuda said, but one thing is being done to make all those people living there a little more comfortable. The fences, especially around the home plate area, will be adjusted to catch more foul balls so not as many windows in the area will be under siege.
Gustavson is happy for the village and the baseball program.
'It's always had a charm of its own,' he said, 'but when it's done, I think it'll be unrivaled in the conference.'
Fuda was happy to help as he is a man who is fully vested in the village and the school district. Having four children go through the district's school doors will do that to a person.
'This is going to be a lot better when it's done,' he said. 'These kind of projects are fun. I love doing them.'