ELKHART — A local entrepreneur hoping to open a new baseball stadium east of Elkhart city limits didn’t hit a home run with his proposal on Thursday, April 18, but he will not stop his search for a location for a ballpark in Elkhart County.
The county’s board of zoning appeals unanimously denied a request for a special use permit that would have allowed a 1,625-seat stadium to be built north of the St. Joseph River near C.R. 17 and C.R. 10. The board pressed the pause button on CTT Communications owner Craig Wallin’s plans after hearing from nearby property owners who objected to the stadium’s close proximity to residential neighborhoods. Homeowners voiced concerns about potential traffic jams, light pollution and from noise from loudspeakers, cheering fans and fireworks.
“I think this is wonderful if we can build a park, but it’s the wrong place,” said Franklin Troyer, who said he has lived off of C.R. 10 for more than 30 years.
Wallin had planned to buy 17 acres from First Baptist Church to build a new stadium that would be home to the Elkhart County Miracle beginning next year as part of the summertime collegiate Northwoods League.
He had similar plans for a baseball stadium three years ago on C.R. 17 near U.S. 20, but the project fizzled when the economy dipped. This time, Wallin said, he has roughly $6.5 million through investors to secure team franchise rights and construct a stadium.
“When we first started this journey about four or five years ago, we had about 10 sites that we gave at least a serious look at, and from those, we probably had a shortlist of probably two or three other sites, so we’ll revisit them,” Wallin said. “They’re all great sites, and I’m sure they would be wonderful for what we’re trying to do. This is not the end.”
Thursday’s meeting was standing-room-only, with more than 70 people in attendance.
“It shows that there is a real strong interest not only in baseball but also the location of the stadium,” Wallin said. “I don’t know, honestly, that I’ve talked to anyone who thinks it’s a rotten idea, organized baseball at that level coming to the area. I think most people enjoy that idea, and my hope is that everybody in that room today will someday become one of our fans.”