ELKHART — Neighbors of a proposed minor league-style baseball stadium in a residential area just east of Elkhart city limits have expressed concerns prior to an Elkhart County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
At least a few are expected to attend that meeting, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, April 18, at the Department of Public Services Meeting Rooms A & B at 4230 Elkhart Road, Goshen. One of the agenda items is a proposal for a 1,625-seat ballpark.
CTT Communications, owned by longtime broadcaster and businessman Craig Wallin, wants to build the stadium on wooded land at C.R. 17 and C.R. 10 (Bristol Street) now owned by First Baptist Church.
The stadium would be home to the Elkhart County Miracle. The team would play in the summer collegiate Northwoods League, beginning in 2014.
A similar plan was proposed in 2010 with a stadium to be built on C.R. 17 near the U.S. 20 Bypass, but it stalled during the recession.
In its proposal papers, CTT Communications calls the new multi-use stadium “a symbol of our economic and community-wide revival and will be a tangible sign of hope and promise for the future of Elkhart County. Its impact will reach far beyond baseball as our staff manages the facility and our teams benefits the community.”
Some residents who live near the proposed ballpark site are worried that such a facility will bring in traffic jams, night-time noise and lighting, wastewater and other issues to their quiet neighborhoods.
Harry Sims, who has lived on Riverview for more than 25 years, went to the county surveyor’s office and obtained aerial maps of the area.
“Except for the church, you look for a mile-plus in any direction and it’s all single-dwelling homes,” Sims said. “It’s going to be hectic if it gets off the ground.
‘Where is drain-off field?’
Martha Sims, Harry’s wife, is also disturbed.
“It just seems like the wrong place to put a commercial endeavor with large-size crowds surrounded by residential,” Sims said. “We had no problem with special-use waiver by the church.”
“People on walking trails with dogs is not a disruption. (A ballpark) will be very, very different.”
Some area residents received a letter about the zoning board meeting while others claim they did not.
Bob Baker was among those who did receive a letter. He is opposed to having a stadium so close to his house.
“I don’t like the idea,” Baker said. “It was nice the way it was with the people from church walking around on the paths.”
Mike Bontreger, who lives on the north side of Bristol Street, calls it “inappropriate use of that land” and questions why the park could not be built in a different location.
“We’re baseball people,” said Bontreger, “but there are vacant areas on U.S. 20 or other places on C.R. 17. Maybe even at C.R. 6 and C.R. 17?”
Another Riverview resident, Rob Gerring, frets that the park will interfere with the tranquility of the adjacent neighborhood.
I’m looking at all the trees they would take down to do this thing,” Gerring said. “In the summer, we’ll be sitting on our patio and hearing announcers over a huge PA system and people cheering.
“I’m not anti-baseball stadium, I’m just not for it in my backyard.”
Gerring also foresees potential vehicle problems.
“I see nothing but traffic accidents because people drive stupid down here,” Gerring said.
He notes that drivers on the revamped Bristol Street, where the posted speed limit is 35 mph, treat it “like a racetrack.”
Derek Conley, a teacher and coach who lives in nearby Stonebridge neighborhood, has also expressed concern about things like traffic, lightning and noise, but wants to know more about the project.
“I’m not making judgements either way,” Conley said. “I think it could be a good thing if it’s done correctly. Our property values could go either way. It depends on what kind of facility and what it entails.”