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Jim Tait October

home : lt sports : sports October 22, 2016

4/13/2012 11:40:00 AM
County Stadium seats await tonight's crowd at varsity home opener
Thirty-six seats from old Milwaukee stadium installed at Lakeland field
A section of 36 seats that once were in Milwaukee County Stadium now sit at the Lakeland Union High School baseball diamond.Bryan Rose photograph
A section of 36 seats that once were in Milwaukee County Stadium now sit at the Lakeland Union High School baseball diamond.

Bryan Rose photograph

Bryan Rose

As the new backstop and dugouts went up at the Lakeland Union High School baseball park two years ago, principal Jim Bouché knew he had seen this before.

Bouché was the assistant principal and athletic director at Eagan, Minn., when the high school he was at did a similar renovation.

"We were doing here pretty much all the same things we had to do over there," Bouché said.

One thing that made that renovation stand out, though, was what fans would sit on as they watched the game.

The Eagan baseball booster club had purchased 500 seats from Milwaukee County Stadium and those seats were being installed at the field.

The Minnesota school did not use all the seats it had purchased so as Bouché watched the Lakeland construction he had an idea.

"It never made much sense to have County Stadium West over in Minnesota where they didn't really care about County Stadium," he said. "It makes more sense to have County Stadium North here in Lakeland where people can appreciate them."

Bouché called up the baseball coach in Minnesota and worked out a deal.

"I told them I know how much you paid for those and I know they are just sitting there," he said jokingly. "So they weren't going to make a bunch of money off of us."

Bouché purchased 50 of the leftover seats and last spring break, Lakeland head coach Mike Wilhelm and assistant coach Wade Wentland made the trip to Eagan to pick up the seats.

"[Bouché] basically said, 'Mike, we are going to buy some seats. Go pick them up,'" Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said as he drove to Minnesota, he didn't really know what he was picking up.

"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "Jim told us he bought some seats from Eagan. I didn't know if they would be in total dissarray."

The seats were in very good condition Wilhelm said and he and Wentland transported them back to Lakeland where they were repainted.

But with the baseball season under way, the seats were left in storage for the summer until this fall.

"We wanted to get them in before winter," Wilhelm said. "We got them and it got put on the back burner last year. Summer came around and we said we got these seats, let's get them in there."

Unlike Eagan's seating, the Lakeland County Stadium seats are set on a tiered cement foundation.

"The seats we put in at Eagan were on a flat slab," Bouché said. "We always talked about putting another tier on there but I still don't think they have done that. When they see pictures of what we have done here, there is going to be some envy over there."

Bouché said installing the seats went smoothly, thanks to help from the community and LUHS building and grounds supervisor, Dave Arnold.

"Dave Arnold did a great job getting the bids out and getting people in here that could do the job," Bouché said.

While the seats are now installed, the next phase is to get the word out.

Wilhelm said his baseball team knows about the seats and are excited they have been installed.

"Last year the seniors were a little down that we didn't get them in last spring," Wilhelm said. "So the kids are really excited."

Bouché said the response in Eagan was positive and he believes the same will happen here in Lakeland.

"When I would go out to watch baseball games there, all the seats would be full," he said. "I would walk up and say, 'What? No one saved a seat for the athletic director?'"

Bouché said he believes the seats will also bring back a lot of nostalgia for many.

"These are the same seats from the stadium that I watched Milwaukee Braves and Brewers games at," Bouché said. "I think for a lot of people, it is going to bring up some of those old memories."

Bouché said one memory that won't be duplicated is the lack of leg room at County Stadium.

"We gave these seats plenty of room for people to move around and stretch their legs," he said.

Wilhelm said he is excited to see how the seats will boost attendance.

"This is just another reason to come and check out a game and sit in a County Stadium seat," the coach said. "How awesome is that?"

Bryan Rose may be reached via email at sports@lakelandtimes.com.

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