LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As the National Anthem plays... it's the sound that the start of a baseball game is just moments away. This will be the first game at the newly renamed stadium at Legion Field. W.B. Williamson American Legion Post 1 officials and the City of Lake Charles held a grand-reopening ceremony to unveil major renovations and announce the stadium's new name: Alvin Dark Stadium at Legion Field in honor of native son and former professional baseball player and manager Alvin Dark.
86-year-old Dark couldn't make it to the ceremony, but his children were on hand to watch Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach throw out the first pitch. The dedication comes full circle as Legion Field was the same field Dark played on as a boy.
Gene Dark says his father is proud of the honor: "Well he's always pretty humble about these things, but deep down I know that he really appreciates and is really thrilled with it."
The stadium not only got a new name, but it also received a major overhaul. From the bleachers to the field, the city spent $350,000 on improvements. Designed by Kal Ripkin and Associates, the renovations included rebuilding of the Infield, the Outfield, the Backstop, and painting of the stands and bleachers. Renovations to the Infield included removal of the existing playing materials, and re-grading and the placement of new materials. Renovations to the Outfield included removal of the existing turf, soil re-stabilization, irrigation and new sod. Construction of the new Backstop included large poles supporting protective netting. The poles were grounded in a red brick wall with a concrete cap giving the structure the look and feel of a 1930's and '40's Backstop.
"It's wonderful that the city will dedicate this kind of money to the program of our kids because our future is in our children," said Vice Commander Jim Jackson, W.B. Williamson American Legion Post 1.
Taking the field are the St. Louis High School Jaxx teams. When asked what they thought about the city's investment:
"Aww... It's beautiful. We used to have a mountain in our infield compared to our outfield. It was a three foot drop from infield to outfield. It was dangerous for our infielders to field a fly ball because they would be running back and forth and they would just fall when they hit that big hill," recalled Collin Todd.
"I'm happy that they did that because it shows they actually care about us and they are going to help us out with baseball," said John O'Dow.
The stadium also has a new state-of-the-art scoreboard that was donated by Lake Charles Toyota and attorney Norman Thigpen.