MANKATO -- Mankato MoonDogs general manager Austin Link is understandably excited about the remodeling of Franklin Rogers Park.
But there’s regular excited and there’s over-the-top elated. Put Link in the latter category.
“It’s an amazing facility now,” Link said. “We think it’s the third best baseball park in the entire state, after Target Field and CHS Field in St. Paul.”
The reason for Link’s enthusiasm correlates to the near $4 million renovation of the 57-year-old ballpark. Franklin Rogers, more affectionately known as The Frank, has had a few makeovers over the years, but nothing nearly as extensive as what has transpired since last summer.
Except for the main grandstand area behind home plate, which was constructed in the 1960s, the ballpark has been completely redone for the 2018 season.
The crown jewel of the renovations is an artificial-turf surface on the field. The state-of-the-art surface will result in truer bounces for the fielders and fewer postponements or cancellations due to weather.
“It can rain hard from 2 to 3 o’clock, and the field will be playable by 3:30,” Link said. “All it has to do is dry out a little bit and it’s good to go.
“I won’t miss dragging out all the Diamond Dry to soak up the moisture around home plate. Those days are behind us.”
Totally new dugouts with attached locker rooms have been erected along the perimeter of the field. They replace the antiquated changing facility down the right-field line.
“We’re finally going to have a locker room that players actually want to hang out in,” MoonDogs manager Ryan Kragh said. “In the old one, the players couldn’t get out fast enough. This is a facility now that enhances the baseball experience for everyone.”
A new concession stand and restroom facilities have been built on the same site as the old ones.
“We’re going to have a fryer this year so we’ll be able to offer a lot more variety on our menu,” Link said. “I think the fans are going to appreciate it.”
A new Dog Pound has been built on the left-field side of the field that holds up to 400 people and adjacent, will be some additional bleacher seating. The Dog Pound is an area where spectators can pay an additional fee to enjoy beverages and unlimited food during the game.
The roof of the home dugout on the first-base side will feature the Dugout Club hospitality area. That’s a space featuring a table and four chairs that can be rented for the entire season. The area will have its own grill and a private waitstaff that offers beverages and unlimited food.
Further down the right-field line will be a berm that curves all the way around the outfield fence where families can set up a blanket and simply stand to watch a game the old-fashioned way.
“There’s going to be all kinds of ways to take in a game this year,” Link said. “The vantage points are pretty good no matter where you sit or stand.”
Two more eye-popping additions are a 10x16 foot scoreboard in left field and a 20x50 foot videoboard in right.
“Those are going to add a lot to the game experience,” Link said. “The owners came up with the money for the videoboard. It can show replays of great catches, be broken up into four screens and a lot more. We want people driving on Highway 14 to look over and see the excitement at the ballpark.”
Chad Surprenant, one of the majority owners of the MoonDogs, said the new Franklin Rogers Park is a facility that all of Mankato and North Mankato can get behind.
“The city did a fantastic job bringing this all together,” he said. “The construction crew worked their tails off to get this done on time.
“There are still a few things that still need to be worked on during the season, but it’s already a beautiful ballpark. This is an amenity everyone in the area can be proud of.”
Jim Rueda is The Free Press Sports Editor. Follow him on twitter @JimRueda.