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Article posted: 4/17/2013 6:01 PM

Wheaton College allowed to rent field to other colleges

By Christopher Placek

Wheaton College will be allowed to rent out a field its baseball team uses in Carol Stream to other college teams, village officials said.

The affirmation from the village board this week comes as college officials sought clarification of a March 2012 village ordinance that granted approvals for the college's $3 million field upgrade project.

The ordinance states the field at 570 S. Gary Ave. can only be used by the college, American Legion Post 76 -- which leases the field to the college -- or for "youth-oriented athletic events." The field cannot be rented or leased by adult teams, according to the ordinance.

Paul Chelsen, the college's vice president for student development, wrote in a letter to Village President Frank Saverino that college staff believed "any reasonable interpretation" of the ordinance permitted other college teams to use the facility.

Village Manager Joe Breinig said village staff originally didn't interpret it the same way but after meeting with college officials, came to believe that rental of the field to other colleges would be acceptable.

The issue arose when Wheaton College rented the field to Trinity Christian College on March 21 and Northwestern University on March 22 and 23. Both schools sought a playable turf field after cold, wet weather conditions caused their natural grass fields to be unplayable.

Village officials allowed the games to be played, while also sending police officers there to monitor the games, but no issues of concern were raised, Breinig said.

Village officials said other conditions of approval in the ordinance will control the intensity of use of the field, which is located adjacent to the Mission Court subdivision in Winfield. Some residents raised concerns last year that the field upgrades would lead to added traffic and noise in the area.

Saverino said allowing other college teams to use the field could be good for local businesses, particularly hotels nearby.

"We really try to promote the local economy when you bring those teams in," Saverino told Wheaton baseball coach Matt Husted at Monday's village board meeting. "In my opinion, what I saw at that baseball field, people came to play because they couldn't (elsewhere).

"Anyone who hasn't seen that baseball stadium is missing a field of dreams."

College spokeswoman LaTonya Taylor said rentals have been handled on an as-needed basis up to this point. The college will be using the field through May, and the legion's baseball team will use the field in the summer, she said.

Last year, the college completed installation of turf and eight 80- to 86-foot tall light poles. Other elements of the $3 million field upgrade plan include construction of a 242-seat stadium, press box, locker rooms, concessions, bathrooms and a storage facility.

Husted said the college is still in the process of fundraising to be able to complete the entire renovation project, and has about one-third of the way to go.

The field, rededicated in honor of longtime Wheaton baseball coach Lee Pfund, has been home to the college's baseball games and practices on and off for about 15 years.

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