CLINTON — With all the improvements made to Ashford University Stadium this summer, LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow is biding his time on just one more thing: the parking lot.
The work originally was to be done in July. It's since been set back, but the City of Clinton has officially accepted a bid and the work is to begin this fall.
“I haven’t heard the exact plan but we’re hoping it’s soon," Tornow said about the plans coming to fruition. "One reason, I don’t want to keep delaying it. I would have just as soon had it done yesterday.”
The parking lot on the north end of the stadium – between the stadium and the campground on the other side – is one filled with broken concrete, gravel and potholes with no parking spaces made. It's something Tornow says will be an improvement for fans and enhance the riverfront experience.
“I don’t know if it will excite them [fans] as much as it does us ... us being the city and the ballclub," Tornow said. "There’s nothing worse. We have a stadium that’s been around for 82 years, a nice marina, a campground, the swimming pool, the Candlelight – we have all these great things. Unless you park on the dike, there’s nowhere to park here that’s adequate.
“It’s been bad for 20-plus years. The last time it was paved was when the boat was still here. It looked nice and they took care of it and it was probably a combined effort. Since then it's gone downhill. We’re moving forward and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while.”
The plan is to expand the lot a little, cutting out bits of grass on the current edges. Then it's going to be evened out with 4 inches of asphalt being poured. Then they will create parking spots, complete with reserved handicap spots near the street.
It's going to be a simple parking lot, but that's all they need.
“It’s going to be even. It’s going to be a nice-shaped parking lot," Tornow said. "We can always cut spots out and plant trees or put planters out there. If we want to we can dress it up. Right now, it’s an eyesore and everyone knows it’s bad. It will be done this fall.”
So that'll happen soon, and will cap off a summer of improvements for Tornow, the ballclub, the city and the Friends of Riverview Stadium. There also are a new video board on the concourse and a ribbon board in right field that are new elements for the beloved and historic ballpark.
“Everybody loves it and we’re happy about it," Tornow said. “We’re able to do a lot – communicate things to fans, communicate our sponsor messages. We took a step into the 21sts Century.
“We’re pretty laid back, we don’t have a lot of fancy trills and that’s what makes us unique and special in today’s world of fancy distractions and gizmos.”
Those attending games also may have noticed the growing popularity in the picnic garden. That's largely due to a large shelter behind the LumberKings' bullpen. Tables have been placed underneath, and offer a comfortable place for people to sit during blistering summer days.
“We should have done that 20 years ago," Tornow said. “For what that cost, it is worth it 10 times over. The shade, the protection, the safety. On hot days, you can sit under those umbrellas and get some shade but it’s a good 10-degree difference with that roof. We can serve our food in a shaded area, our fans and workers are covered. It benefits everybody.”
Although the parking lot may not have made its debut during the 2018 season, it's on its way. Tornow is hoping for a good turnout in the last month of the season and better weather next spring, so the stadium can continue to improve.