Former farmers market picked as ballpark site

Wallin chooses site based on location, exsisting structure.

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on June 21, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.

ELKHART — The former American Countryside Farmers Market at S.R. 19 and C.R. 26 on the south side of Elkhart has been chosen as the site of a new baseball stadium, according to the owner of the planned team.

The stadium would house the Elkhart County Miracle of the independent professional Northern League.

The Miracle, the only team announced so far for the league, are scheduled to begin play in 2014.

Craig Wallin, Miracle owner and CTT Communications president, announced his plan Friday, June 21, for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the stadium site for 1 p.m. Friday, June 28. Excavating could begin in July.

Wallin said a purchase agreement is in place with current property owners, Elkhart’s Waste-Away Group, to buy about 20 acres. The parcel would include the current building with the stadium to be built just to the north.

Wallin said he expects closing for the sale to CTT Communications — which will be the sole owner of the team and land — to come late in the summer.

The American Countryside Farmers Market was built for about $5 million and the stadium is expected to cost around $6 million.

Wallin said the new stadium and adjacent complex — what he is calling the Stadiumplex — is expected to be utilized for high school and college baseball games, community events, weddings, receptions and concerts.

“It is a great location for those coming from anywhere in the county,” said Wallin. “It is very accessible.”

The location, multiuse potential and facilities already in-place, including restrooms and parking, are among the things that attracted Wallin to the C.R. 26 site.

It is hoped that the current building can be used for a clubhouse, indoor hitting tunnel and training facility.

Tori Wallin, Craig’s youngest daughter, will serve as the team’s head athletic trainer.

Courtney Wallin, Craig’s oldest daughter, is the team’s social media coordinator, handling the team’s Facebook page and working with the Northern League.

Craig Wallin plans to serve as the Miracle’s general manager with John Baxter as senior adviser. Michiana Promotions will be in charge of sales and Mattern’s will manage food vendors.

Chris Godlewski, director of the Elkhart County Planning Department, said Wallin would likely have to detail how exactly the land would be used and get permission from county officials to develop the baseball stadium. No application had been submitted as of Friday — Wallin’s press release was the first Godlewski heard of the plans — but he didn’t mention any possible roadblocks in the process.

“It’s ag, it’s wide open,” Godlewski said, alluding to the nature of the land where the stadium would be built.

More precisely, Wallin would have to put together what’s called a detailed planned unit development, or DPUD, and submit the proposal to the Elkhart County Planning Commission. The process typically takes 60 to 90 days and, ultimately, Elkhart County commissioners would have final say.

Wallin had previously proposed building a stadium on a site around C.R. 10 and C.R. 17 just east of Elkhart. Neighbors clamored, though, and county officials turned down his request to build there.

A DPUD process would require a public hearing, but unlike the C.R. 10-C.R. 17 plot, far fewer people live around the new proposed site, Godlewski noted.

Waste-Away Group offered the winning bid on the farmers market building and 275 acres around it at auction in June 2011.

In 2010, Wallin announced his intention to build a stadium at C.R. 17 and the U.S. 20 Bypass, but that plan to did not move forward.

Elkhart Truth reporter Tim Vandenack contributed to this story.

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