New grandstand part of Hank Overin Field rebuild
Two summers ago, Jeff Zeiss couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
A tree had been blown over in a violent windstorm on the morning of June 30, 2014, landing squarely on the roof of the grandstand at Hank Overin Field.
The grandstand had originally been constructed during the Great Depression and had undergone a facelift in the early 1980’s. Zeiss, who has been coming to the field as a player, coach and groundskeeper for 40 years, remembered the disbelief he felt when he saw that tree crushing the grandstand and backstop fencing.
“I was just glad nobody was there when it happened, but after that shock wore off it was like ‘Wow, what are we going to do?’”
Two summers later, the first pitch of the 2016 American Legion season was made, and fans were sitting in a brand new version of the classic grandstand, thanks to the work of a committee of community volunteers who worked with the City of Wayne to get a new grandstand put in place.
The new version of Hank Overin Field is the result of a lot of work and a lot of donations of money, time and labor by the Wayne community and baseball alumni. More than $143,000 has been raised so far, which has allowed for construction of the new grandstand, a new storage area and press box, a new window for the concession stand, handicap-accessible restrooms and matching paneling for the old storage building and concession/restroom structure on either side of the new grandstand.
Pat Melena, chairman of the citizens committee that worked to get the new structure in place, said some work still needs to be done, but what has been done so far looks fantastic.
“I think everything’s coming along nicely,” he said. “We’ve had great support from the community to get this done. We’ve got a few things that need to be done yet, but it feels great to have the grandstand up and it looks great.”
The grandstand is an all-wood construction, with materials that were donated by Sand Creek Post & Beam. Other local companies, including Milo Meyer Construction and Otte Construction, have played significant roles in the reconstruction work as well.
The City of Wayne has also played a vital role in the reconstruction work, Melena said. The press box and storage shed, which sits behind and above the first-base dugout, was built by city employees during the winter months. Cabinets and a heating and air conditioning unit are all that remains to complete that structure.
Outside, some fencing is scheduled to be installed in the coming days along the west side of the field. Grass has been seeded on the outer edge of the facility, and Melena thinks the last bit of work should be completed in plenty of time before Wayne hosts an American Legion Juniors area tournament later this summer.
“We’re hosting that area tournament in early July, which is about six weeks from now,” he said. “We have a contractor coming in to put stain on the wood and we’ve been working diligently to have all of the first phase of the project done before the tournament.”
The work would not have been possible without the community support that has been received by the volunteer committee. Several local businesses have made major contributions to the project, and fundraisers and support from baseball alumni, along with the city’s insurance, have helped take care of the funding for the grandstand reconstruction and facilities upgrades.
“The support from the community has been tremendous, and there is some more money that is still coming in,” Melena said. “We’ve heard from opposing coaches and fans and the umpires who have come here and are very impressed with the new look, and the playing surface is as good as it’s ever been, so we’re awful proud of it and we’re looking for many more years of enjoyment.”
In the end, the wind storm that destroyed the old grandstand turned out to be a blessing, Zeiss said.
“You never wish for that kind of damage to happen, but it probably was a blessing for us,” he said. “We had been talking about needing to do some things, and that storm actually set some of that into motion.”
Zeiss said he is proud – not only of the work that’s been done, but the support the community has shown.
“It’s just been amazing,” he said. “Something like this shows how people take pride in our community and in our baseball program. I’ve been pinching myself when I look at some of these improvements, and I think Hank would be very pleased with the way we’ve kept things intact.”