Kelso’s Stan Rister Stadium may soon receive a facelift.
A fundraising effort spearheaded by members of Kelso Babe Ruth is within $40,000 of its target goal to add drainage and turf to the infield of Rister Stadium. The group is hopeful to begin construction this summer.
The project’s estimated cost totals $490,910. That includes over 42,000 square feet of synthetic turf with installation, drainage pipe, rock, sand, and other necessary costs.
Much of that funding has come through private donations secured by Kelso Babe Ruth.
“It’ll be huge,” Kelso High School baseball coach Tom D’Aboy said. “Anyone who has been around baseball in the Pacific Northwest knows there’s always going to be weather issues.”
Kelso High School’s 2017 varsity baseball home games were played at a field adjacent to Rister Stadium after heavy rains and the absence of drainage created flooding and ruined the surface for spring play.
The added turf would also allow the Hilanders — and potentially other area programs — to host regional or bi-district playoff games. Schroeder Field held a state football playoff game between Toledo and Reardan in its first year with turf.
Youth baseball programs around the area also use Rister Stadium in the summer.
“This is something that can change the program,” D’Aboy said. “Not just the high school, but the youth programs. It’ll also get people to come out and stay in our hotels and visit our businesses.”
Last June, Kelso Babe Ruth entered into a partnership with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, and established requirements for Cal Ripken to complete the final 25 percent of the fundraising.
Kelso Babe Ruth president Travis Keele secured a major donation from the Apex Foundation, which originally provided the majority of funds to build Rister Stadium. The city of Kelso also contributed $30,000 through its logging tax.
Other private donations have given the youth baseball program hope that the remaining funds will be secured soon.
Kelso city manager Steve Taylor said the way the park is used won’t change. Leagues and other users will still pay “a modest fee” and be responsible for general upkeep.
“We’re really pleased to see the amount of money privately raised for the artificial turf,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the city has spent around $900,000 on upgrades over the past two years, including a parking expansion project that is yet to be completed.
Lower Columbia College’s recent turf project at David Story Field had a similar budget as Rister’s proposed turf installation, and Keele is hoping for the same success in Kelso.
Named for the late Stan Rister, a Castle Rock native, Rister Stadium was completed over the summer of 2005. Jolene McCaw, Rister’s daughter, serves as co-director of the Apex Foundation, which donated around $1 million to build it.
Kelso Babe Ruth will be responsible for upkeep and operation according to a memorandum of understanding between Kelso Babe Ruth and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Cal Ripken is responsible for scheduling, permitting, and planning, but the rights and title will be turned over to Kelso Babe Ruth following the project’s completion.