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Tuffy Stadium celebrates grand opening

Representatives of companies that assisted greatly with the new stadium project were given commemorative plaques between innings of the Independence Day game in recognition of their donated time, goods and services. Bob Williams/FOCUS

What began as an idea with a quarter-million dollar price tag in early spring has come to fruition - and just in time for the Fourth of July.

The Perham Pirates and Dent Wildcats played the first game in front of the new Tuffy Stadium last Wednesday evening.

Announcements about how the grandstand was put together and the key players involved in its construction and financing were applauded between innings.

A donor recognition party was held last Monday evening to specifically thank the many people involved. Co-chairmen of the project, Al Stigman and Bucky Burgau, kicked off the meeting with speeches.

Stigman was a man of many one-liners and was called by Burgau, "the greatest ballplayer who ever played on this field."

Burgau, the head coach at Concordia College, remarked that other than spending time with his family, the most special thing he does each day is put on a baseball jersey.

Alluding to the nature of baseball in American culture, the new look at Krueger Field was reminiscent of when Burgau played in Perham. He remarked on his first walk to centerfield to view the stadium, how much it resembled the field he had once played on.

The ambience of the old grandstand was of significant importance to the members of the committee.

The 17-person committee included: Bob Schepper, Tony Stoll, Brian Mort, Fred Sailer, Kelsey Klemm, Chuck Johnson, Shane Hendrickson, Russ Winkels, Ed Stoll, John George, Larry Mollins, Greg Schmid, Joe Doll, Bob Wilkowski, Al Stigman, Ryan Stigman and Todd Barney.

Of note, Sailer was the outspoken leader of the project. His perseverance, optimism and organizational skills were imperative to many aspects of the project, before even the first of 6,000 bricks was ordered.

Sailer and Schepper were honored during the grand opening game for their contributions. Schepper is a field caretaker, manages operations and is a fixture at Krueger Field. The committee made special recognition of his years of service.

Perham Mayor Tim Meehl spoke at last Monday's ceremony on what Tuffy Stadium means to Perham and the culture of this town.

"This is going to be great for years to come," Meehl said. "What is amazing is how this community keeps coming together."

Early estimates were to have the project completed by mid-July. Having it playable for Independence Day is a credit to the people behind the project.

Shane Hendrickson and Tony Stoll were the construction experts consulted at all phases of the rebuilding.

The duo honored the "Team Builders," local businesses and individuals who donated time and supplies to the project.

Those recognized were Ottertail Power, Ottertail Aggregate, JC Electric, Team Electronics, Herzog Roofing, Curtis Brothers Masonry, Hendrickson Family, BHH Partners, Shane Hendrickson, Hammer's Construction, Menahga Concrete, Friezen and McNeilius and Ed Stoll Construction.

Arvig and KLN were recognized for making contributions in excess of $50,000 to the project.

Kenny, Kim and Charlie Nelson represented KLN.

Kenny Nelson addressed the crowd with the importance his father, Tuffy Nelson, stressed on community involvement and how he and the KLN family have done their best to keep the tradition going.

The Nelson's impact on the project was far more than just monetary. As others have pointed out, their willingness to give was an inspiration to numerous individuals and businesses to join together to complete the project as scheduled.

Arvig, represented by David and Holley Arvig, was the second essential partner in getting the project off the ground and were also recognized.

Arvig trucks were at the scene during much of the construction, and the company also donated more than $50,000 plus a new scoreboard, which will be installed by the end of July.

Commemorative plaques, baseballs and bats were handed out to those who donated, including the 10 set-up specialists, those who donated $5,000-$19,999, the 36 donations of up to $5,000, and the more than 50 donations of $200-$1,499.

A number of minor details remain to be finished in the coming weeks at Tuffy Stadium, such as guard railings and other safety features, along with the coming scoreboard.

The impact of the design had an effect on the first game played there, with the brick façade playing far livelier than the beaten wood it replaced.

The look and feel of Tuffy Stadium at Krueger Field is altogether different, and yet still complimentary, to the landmark that came before it. That was the plan of the committee; and, like the whole of the project, came off without a hitch in an incredibly short amount of time.

In a matter of a few months, Perham's baseball park was upgraded from a nostalgic landmark to one of the premier places to play baseball in the state of Minnesota.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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