The Sauk Rapids City Council, Paul Wippler said, got so used to seeing him asking for money for the baseball park, they gave him an ultimatum.
Come up with a bottom line for fixing up Bob Cross Park and leave them alone.
“The last time I went, they said, ‘we’re sick of seeing you,’ ” Wippler said.
That’s how Bob Cross Park got lights for the baseball field in 2012, with the city paying for it and Wippler sticking to a promise: no more asking for money.
“I told them, if you guys fund the lights, I’ll raise money for the grandstand,” Wippler said.
Wippler said he has raised $94,500 for the grandstand, which would be covered and seat about 300 fans. He needs about $31,000 more. It will be elevated and have a 40-inch wall going around the foul territory behind home plate.
He believes it’ll make Sauk Rapids home to one of the nicest baseball parks in the area, if not the state.
“We’ve had a very good response, but I need more,” said Wippler, a long-time baseball player, booster and manager who is head coach of the Sauk Rapids American Legion baseball team.
Sauk Rapids (5-2) plays at 7 p.m. Monday at Sartell (5-2) in a St. Cloud Sub-District game.
The city remains involved, Wippler said, because it enables donations to be tax deductible. He has a long, impressive list of area businesses and organizations that have pledged sizable amounts.
Coborn’s has made a pledge of $40,000, the biggest to date. But a slew of others have made significant pledges as well.
Wippler needs a little more.
“I can use some help to get this done,” he said.
Wippler, also an assistant baseball coach on the high school team under Jeff Hille, is a Sauk Rapids High School graduate and longtime small business owner. He owns Hardware Hank of Sauk Rapids. His sons Tom and Adam are Sauk Rapids graduates and standout baseball players who now play for the Sauk Rapids Cyclones amateur baseball team.
Wippler is proud of Sauk Rapids’ baseball tradition. He said that, as much as anything, is why he has taken on the project of improving Bob Cross Park, which now has new fencing, a batter’s eye and dugouts because of fundraising and donations over the years.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” Wippler said.
Donations can be made by contacting him at Hardware Hank of Sauk Rapids or by contacting City of Sauk Rapids finance director Jack Kahlhammer at Sauk Rapids City Hall.