Cedar Rapids Kernels Need Warmer Weather to get Stadium Ready for Home Opener

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Professional baseball returns to Cedar Rapids in a little more than three weeks. But this year's brutal winter is making getting ready a whole lot tougher.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels start the season April 3rd with a 6:30 p.m. game against the Clinton LumberKings. That's just 24 days away. But looking at the largely snow-covered field and stadium now you might wonder if grounds crews can get everything ready in time for the home opener.

Doug Nelson, general manager of the Kernels, said workers are probably a week to ten days behind the normal pace to get ready to start the season. More 50 plus degree days the rest of the week could melt off a lot of the remaining snow and speed up the process. But workers are starting to think of some short cuts now to make sure everything's ready on time.

One example was visible today in the seats behind home plate. Typically, that's a comfortable place to watch a game on a hot July day because it's a usually shaded area. But the shade in mid-March is preventing the snow inside the stadium from melting as fast. So crews are starting to shovel off both seats, aisles and stairs to encourage the snow to melt faster. It's something workers don't normally have to do.

Joe Krumm, one grounds crew member, said "Yeah, it's a little unusual. Normally it's all melted by now. I've only had to do this one other time."

By three weeks before opening day, crews have usually started to pressure wash the stadium to clean off the dirt and grime of winter. But the water isn't even turned on yet at the stadium. General manager Nelson said if time gets really short, it's possible workers will need to put in some extra hours.

"We have plans in place. We're going to be working double shifts starting Monday if necessary. There's more people ready to go...because I'll guarantee you on April 3rd we'll be playing a baseball game," Nelson said.

Nelson said another trick crews may use to help get the frost out of the ground is to turn sprinklers on early. As long as it's near 40 degrees consistently, the water will go into the ground and help warm up the soil. The soil temperature needs to be at least 55 degrees for the grass in the outfield to begin growing. This winter, the frost at the ballpark, like everywhere else, is deeper than ever.
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