CARSONPARK

 

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Carson Park baseball stadium at the 2013 Northwoods League All-Star Game (July 23, 2013).

 

Few baseball diamonds in Wisconsin or the Midwest can compare to the Carson Park baseball diamond for historic value or in sheer beauty. Located on the island knows as Carson Park in the center of Eau Claire, the baseball diamond has been the "Home of Eau Claire Baseball" for 77 years. During that time, thousands of baseball games have been played here to the delight of millions of local and visiting baseball fans. Generations of Eau Claire ballplayers have had the opportunity to play in this great facility. Countless numbers of baseball stars, past and present, have graced this diamond with the thought of launching a homerun into the towering pines beyond the right field fence, or into the football gridiron in left. Truly, the history and beauty of the Carson Park baseball diamond makes it a special place. 

History
In 1914, an heir to Mr. William Carson donated the land, surrounded by Half Moon Lake, to the City for the purpose of transforming it into a park for the Eau Claire residents. Mr. Carson, an Eau Claire resident who passed away in 1898, was a lumberman, banker, and personal friend of President Grover Cleveland. The official opening of the Carson Park area took place on August 12, 1915. 

In 1935, work began on the Carson Park athletic field complex as one of President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration projects. The total cost was $60,000, with the city of Eau Claire's share being $25,000 – $35,000. The project included the baseball stadium and diamond, the football stadium, a sewage disposal plant, and three tennis courts. Original baseball seating capacity was 1,500. In the baseball stadium, dressing rooms with showers and toilets were included in the project. An eight-foot fence covered by canvas surrounded the outfield area to prevent would-be onlookers from a free peek at the games. Consideration was also given at this time to lighting the fields. In 1936, the first football game was played under the lights at Carson Park while construction was still being completed on the football stadium.

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Carson Park baseball stadium and the Hank Aaron Plaza, featuring the Hank Aaron statue.

On May 4, 1937, the first game was played on the new Carson Park baseball diamond as the Eau Claire Bears hosted the Superior Blues in a Class D Northern League game. Wisconsin Governor Philip LaFollette attended along with the Municipal band. Mayor D.D. Lockerby threw out the first pitch, with Councilman Fred Stussy acting as the catcher. June 1, 1937 was the official dedication of the baseball diamond as the Bears hosted the Class AAA American Association Minneapolis Millers in an exhibition game. News reports had the fans hanging from the rafters of the 1,500 seat stadium with a total estimated crowd of 5,000. This was also the first game under the lights at the baseball diamond. The Bears' attendance in Carson Park's inaugural year topped 40,000. 

The design of the stadium and diamond was essentially the same in 1937 as it is today except for the small, one-person rooftop press box from where radio announcer Hattalee Colstad boradcast. In recent years major renovations have been made within and outside the baseball stadium, but the basic layout has remained intact. 

Teams that have played at Carson Park
The Carson Park diamond was host to professional baseball from 1937 to 1942 with the Eau Claire Bears, and 1946 to 1962 with the Eau Claire Braves, both playing in the old Northern League where many Major League players of the era got their start. Any local baseball fan, who is at least over the age of 40, can recite a long list of past baseball stars who graced the Carson Park baseball diamond. Future Milwaukee Braves who got their start with the Eau Claire franchise included Bill Bruton, Wes Covington, Andy Pafko, Joe Torre, and even Mr. Baseball-Bob Uecker. 

In 1952, the Eau Claire Bears roster included a rookie shortstop from Alabama who led the Northern League in hitting. Nobody would have guessed 61 years ago that this youngster, by the name of Henry Aaron, would go on to break Babe Ruth's career homerun mark and etch his name in history forever. 

Hank Aaron
On August 17, 1994, Aaron returned to Eau Claire and Carson Park to celebrate the unveiling of a statue depicting him as the 18 year-old shortstop for the Eau Claire Bears. Over 5,000 fans jammed the Carson Park baseball stadium and surrounding areas to greet Hammerin' Hank that day.

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Carson Park Fan Deck for an Express game on July 4, 2013

Carson Park Today

Today at 77 years old, the Carson Park baseball stadium remains busier than ever. The diamond plays host to four high schools, the UWEC club team, and local amateur and American Legion teams. The Eau Claire Express became the newest tenant of Carson Park in 2005. Very few days pass in the spring and summer months where there isn't at least one ballgame at the park, with roughly 200 games played there annually. 

For generations of local "fireballers" and "home-run sluggers", Carson Park has been the home of Eau Claire baseball. It has seen the likes of two professional franchises, the Homerun King-Hammerin' Hank, Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) play, five American Legion state tournaments, two Northwoods League All-Star Games, and one Northwoods League Championship.

 

Directions to Carson Park (Map it here)  

Carson Park Address
702 Carson Park Dr.
Eau Claire, WI 54701

From the East/WI-29 West

  • From WI-29 W take the exit for CR-T
  • Turn left onto CR-T to head South
  • CR-T turns into US-12/Clairemont Ave.
  • Turn left onto Menomonie St.
  • Go one block and turn left onto Carson Park Dr. (Dairy Queen on corner)
  • Continue on Carson Park Dr. until you arrive at the baseball stadium

From the North/US-53 South

  • Follow US-53 S towards Eau Claire
  • Merge onto WI-312/North Crossing toward I-94
  • Take the CR-T/Clairemont Ave. ramp toward US-12
  • Turn left onto US-12 W/N Clairemont Ave
  • Turn left onto Menomonie St.
  • Go one block and turn left onto Carson Park Dr. (Dairy Queen on corner)
  • Continue on Carson Park Dr. until you arrive at the baseball stadium

From the West/I-94 East and South/I-94 West

  • From I-94 take Exit 65 (WI-37) toward Eau Claire
  • Turn right onto WI-37/WI-85/Hendrickson Dr.
  • At the second stoplight, turn left on Craig Rd. (McDonalds on corner)
  • At the next stoplight, turn left on US-12/Clairemont Ave. (Taco Bell on corner)
  • After crossing over the river, turn right on Menomonie St. 
  • Go one block and then turn left onto Carson Park Dr. (Dairy Queen on corner)
  • Continue on Carson Park Dr. until you arrive at the baseball stadium