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Johnson Park receives award

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt New Ulm Park and Recreation received an Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association for the improvements to Johnson Park.

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Park and Recreation Department has received an Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) in the Park and Facility category for the Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) Johnson Park Improvement project.

Each year, MRPA recognizes agencies or organizations in Minnesota for outstanding achievements in various categories in an effort to increase public awareness and appreciation of the excellent parks, trails and recreation services available in Minnesota.  A public presentation of this award will be made at a future City Council meeting and highlighted in MRPA’s member magazine. 

Award recipients are determined by committee scores and selects agencies for these awards.  This year,  58 applications were submitted.

The Johnson Park Improvements project was to complete updates and improvements that spanned between 2019-20, with the bulk of the work completed in 2020.  At this facility the city invested over one million dollars in new: restrooms, scoreboard, press box, dugouts, batting cage and two new bullpens. 

In 2020, the RENU project with multiple elements was completed to enhance spectator experience and improve ADA accessibility that included a main front entrance, complete with ADA compliant ramp and ticketing space,  a wide concrete concourse for ADA accessibility and travel requirements, improved spectator experience with concourse level leaning rail viewing locations along first and third base lines, sunken viewing plazas behind the dugouts, a new, modern and full-service concession stand, a new maintenance shop, a new gender neutral and ADA accessible bathroom, new metal panels on existing grandstand roofs (upper and lower), replaced existing chain link backstop fabric with top-grade athletic nylon netting for increased grandstand viewing and safety and constructed a large, elevated observation deck along right field for spectator viewing and private functions.

The City of New Ulm partnered with architectural firm ISG to design improvements to the facility.  For six months, ISG worked with the City and multiple New Ulm baseball groups.  After a complete design was approved by the committee and New Ulm City Council, the project was bid and awarded to WEB Construction of Mankato. The construction schedule encompassed approximately ten months and spanned two years. 

The funding of the project came from the City’s  recently extended local sales tax. Johnson Park was one of three RENU projects selected to receive sales tax funding.

 The City collaborated with the New Ulm Baseball Association, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several decades into baseball improvements at New Ulm’s Johnson and Mueller Parks. 

Johnson Park is a well known destination venue for all ages of both players and fans.   Annually, there are multiple large tournaments hosted at this park and showcase the nostalgia of an 80 year-old ballpark. Johnson Park’s 80 year-old legacy was enhanced by the improvements and ADA upgrades, ensuring it will remain a destination baseball experience for many generations to come. 

The Johnson Park Improvements project is also being given an MRPA Award of Excellence because of its uniqueness.  The Park was built in 1939 as a federally approved Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and was the vision of Fred W. Johnson, a civic leader and president of the New Ulm Park Association. 

The first game played at Johnson Park was Sunday, May 7, 1939; Mayor Albert Flor threw out the first pitch to launch the inaugural season in the new facility. 

After a one-year delay, due to COVID, the official grand re-opening celebration will be held at Johnson Park on Sunday, June 20. The celebration will include a Legion Gold game at 1 p.m.and a ribbon cutting at 3:30 p.m.

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