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Werner Park to be Ready for Opening Night

Staff Will Maintain Ballpark for Eventual Play
Werner Park was ready on Tuesday for what would've been the Storm Chasers home opener. The staff will keep it that way.
April 14, 2020

Werner Park is ready to go. Director of operations Steve Farrens and head groundskeeper Derek York made sure of that. On Tuesday night, the Storm Chasers should’ve been hosting Round Rock in their 2020 Pacific Coast League home opener. Instead, Werner sits empty due to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Werner Park is ready to go.

Director of operations Steve Farrens and head groundskeeper Derek York made sure of that.

On Tuesday night, the Storm Chasers should’ve been hosting Round Rock in their 2020 Pacific Coast League home opener. Instead, Werner sits empty due to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Farrens said that’s a shame because the playing surface at the ballpark is in immaculate condition.

“Derek completely knocked it out of the park,” he said. “It’s too bad we have no one out there playing.”

Farrens and York joined the Chasers staff during the offseason. Farrens previously managed parks and rec facilities in Grand Island while York was a project manager for building and renovating sports fields.

They arrived at Werner Park a month apart, looking forward to the upcoming challenges. With Union Omaha soccer joining Chasers baseball at the ballpark, 2020 was to be like no year that came before it.

There were modifications made for soccer that led to a busier-than-normal offseason for York’s crew.

“We installed a new retractable mound and moved the right-field wall out,” he said. “We had a lot of extra work repairing the infield after the mound was put in and repairing the right-field warning track where the wall was extended. It’s a lot of work that you don’t typically have on a year-to-year basis.”

Farrens, too, came on at a busy time. Projects were already underway to prepare for Werner’s future. There was a new office building for Union Omaha on the rise as well as some needed facility upgrades.

“We had the construction project taking place on the north side of the stadium in addition to the new HVAC systems that were being put in the clubhouses for the home and away baseball teams,” Farrens said. “Those were already going when I took over. All of that has been ongoing in recent months.”

The HVAC project was finished in March, and the Union Omaha construction wrapped up more recently.

Farrens said everything was on track to be ready for Tuesday when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the leadup to the home opener. He said the Chasers staff will continue to operate as if the season is going.

“We’re doing things a little different this year, in terms of parking and security,” Farrens said. “There’s been a lot of planning, which is good because you’re ahead of the game. But then you get something like the coronavirus, which screwed up all plans and all facets of operations, and It is pretty frustrating.”

York said the grounds crew will also continue to take care of the playing surface as if both the Storm Chasers and Union Omaha seasons had started. Among the challenge his staff faces this year will be maintaining an even playing field and keeping infield edges intact as the field is flipped for both sports.

“We’re trying to maintain it to have as healthy and strong of a grass plant as we can so once we do have games, and do have the wear and tear of both baseball and soccer, this field has a better chance to withstand all the play that’s going to be on it,” he said. “We would’ve had 11 or 12 conversions through the year. Soccer play is more aggressive, tearing up the turf. Now, it may stand up better for soccer.”

With no end to the global coronavirus pandemic currently in sight, Farrens and York said the Storm Chasers staff will continue working to have everything at Werner ready to go on a moment’s notice.

“Everything is unknown now,” Farrens said. “Operationally, for the last few weeks, I had been telling our staff to operate as if opening day was still opening day and try to get the stadium as close to that as possible. We have no idea what kind of warning we’re going to get. I don’t want to be unprepared.”