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Mike Creger, Forum News Service, Published March 21 2013

Duluth baseball stadium wall collapses

DULUTH, Minn. - The top 4 to 6 feet of a 20-foot-tall first base wall collapsed Wednesday night at Wade Stadium in West Duluth. The damaged section stretched for more than 200 feet on the part of the wall that faces neighboring homes to the northwest.

City electrician Luke Meints was at the stadium at 8:30 p.m. after a neighbor reported hearing a loud thud in the area. Meints came to check for any exposed wiring and other hazards near the collapse. No one was hurt.

The stadium is used by the Duluth Huskies baseball team, and Huskies owner Michael Rosenzweig was at the site of the collapse at 10 p.m. He was disappointed by the extent of the damage.

“There’s been an issue with bowing on the wall,” he said, and the city has worked to shore it up.

Rosenzweig said the freeze and thaw pattern of the winter and recent strong winds were likely the culprits.

“I think Mother Nature finally took over,” he said.

He thinks the collapse was contained to outside damage and didn’t expect any falling into the seating area.

The city in the past year has urged the state Legislature to provide money to refurbish the stadium that opened 72 years ago. That effort, expected to be a request for $5.8 million, will continue in the next year as bonding requests pass through St. Paul.

“This just heightens the fact we need to get on this project right away,” Rosenweig said.

“The Wade … is both an athletic and historic asset in our community, and I have pledged to move this project forward at the next opportunity,” Sen. Roger Reinert wrote on the News Tribune Opinion page last September after a failed bid last year.

Mayor Don Ness urged backing for remodeling last year as well.

“Wade Stadium is in danger,” he said in May. “The structure is falling apart and the facility is not meeting basic expectations of players and fans alike. Our plan will save one of the last remaining WPA (Works Progress Administration) stadiums, greatly improve the fans’ experience, and ensure that the stadium will see its 100th anniversary in 2041.”

Rosenzweig said he’s sure the wall can be repaired.

“They’ll get it fixed,” he said. “We’ll be playing ball come June 1.”

News Tribune photographer Clint Austin contributed to this report.