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Growden Park still full of life, despite its age

By Dave Leval Photojournalist: Dave Leval - 10:55 AM June 29, 2017

Another sell out crowd for the Midnight Sun Baseball Game at Growden Park in Fairbanks.

More of a family affair for North Pole’s Brad Hoff.

“Summer Solstice is like one of the greatest things about Alaska summer, and it’s great my mom and dad are here from Pennsylvania, my daughter Carrie here,” Hoff told KTVA Sports.

It’s the 112th edition of the summer classic and the 54 time Growden Park has hosted the event. Hoff believes it’s time for a facelift for Alaska’s first stadium to have lights.

“I think we could do a lot better, I think if the community came together, did some work, we could have a great stadium,” said Hoff.

The Alaska Goldpanners have been the stadium’s main tenants since the ballpark first opened in 1964. Last season saw the “Panners” do some renovations. That included the removal of some seats along the first baseline, deemed unsafe by city inspectors. They also installed temporary seats along the first and third-base lines.

“We put in a few new seats, but, mainly it was getting the ballpark cleaned up, and a better presentation to the fans,” said Goldpanners John Lohrke, and that’s not all they did. “A lot of paint, the flowers, just a lot of cleaning up, pretty much gutted the insides of the facilities and got rid of stuff that had been here 50 years,” added Lohrke.

Work on a building behind the visitor’s dugout has stopped. It would have housed the visiting team, so, players would not have to stay in a hotel. No word why work stopped, or when it will resume.

Growden Park still works despite its age. The Goldpanners hope their fans appreciate the efforts to make it more inviting. “We want them to come in and say, ‘hey, the place looks great,'” said Lohrke.

The stadium’s condition is not enough to chase away those who complained about how it looks.

“Just to be able to be out in the sun, just to be able to enjoy something that is unique to Alaska,” said Hoff as Growden Park has done for more than half a century.

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