Fort Dodge’s venerable home baseball diamond has the outfield brick wall and ivy look of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Now, more than seven decades after it was built, Ed McNeil Field is joining its Major League counterpart by adding lights.
Wrigley was known as a home to day-only games until 1988. McNeil Field is finally realizing its own florescent ideal, too.
When Fort Dodge hosts Humboldt at 8 p.m. on Monday, it will be the first time the Dodgers have hosted a game under the lights — after a local fundraising project gathered more than $135,000 to pay for new Musco lighting.
“It’s like being in ‘Field of Dreams,’ ” Fort Dodge activities director Matt Elsbecker said. “If you build it, they will come.”
The baseball field opened in 1942. The first game played there was an exhibition between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox that drew 8,500 fans.
The lights were turned on for the first time Saturday night. As if they were summoned, more than 100 interested onlookers wandered onto the field.
“It’s kind of a new era for Dodger baseball,” coach Blake Utley said. “This is something that every Dodger since the field was built probably dreamed about.”
For years, someone suggested installing lights, only to see the momentum fizzle over complaints from neighbors and technical issues involving power lines.
Iowa was a pioneer in developing night baseball. Des Moines hosted the first-ever professional game played under permanent lights in 1930. Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson, an Iowa native, used a mobile lighting system when his team traveled.
Now, Fort Dodge is adding to the lighting legacy.
“It goes back to the pride thing,” Elsbecker said. “I’m looking at this and I’m witnessing history right now.”
The lights are the first phase of what is hoped to be a three-part project. The other capital works would feature a backstop and improved permanent seating. The facility currently features bleachers space for about 400 people.
A website, EdMcNeilFieldrenovations.com, has helped promote the project. Contributions can be made via the website.
Elsbecker estimated the entire project’s cost at about $500,000.
Three former Dodgers will throw out the first pitch Monday: Steve Arnold, who played on the 1969 state championship team; Bo Tjebben, from the 1989 state runner-up; and Luke Vandermaten of the 2012 second-place squad.