The free press
NORTH MANKATO – Watching ball games has long been the audience’s joyful entertainment in North Mankato during the spring and summer.
In 1936, Bill Tanley, a coroner for Key City Beverages, came up with the idea of building a baseball field near the corner of Monroe Avenue and Center Street, where Monroe Elementary is now. The ballpark was originally called Key City Park and was renamed after its founder in 1937.
Within two years, Tanley Field had expanded to include more seating, showers, changing rooms, covered dugouts, lighting for night games, a press kiosk and speaker equipment. The improvements helped make the ballpark popular for regional games.
In 1947, when North Mankato hosted the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, Tanley Field set a record for attendance. The same year, an electronic scoreboard was installed.
In April 1951, the ballpark facilities were completely flooded, along with many homes and businesses in lower North Mankato.
Mankato Merchants, who used Tanley Field as his home ground, disbanded shortly after the flood, said longtime resident of the area and former baseball coach Bob O’Brien.
The ballpark was demolished in 1958 to make way for the primary school. Baseball fans began playing across the river in Mankato’s Key City Park (later renamed Franklin Rogers).
North Mankato became a popular destination for softball fans after city officials in April 1985 proposed a plan to build a four-diamond softball complex. City council members chose to name the site in honor of a man who had been a mouthpiece for baseball games in the area in the 1940s through the 1960s.
Kenneth W. Caswell was better known by the nickname “Bud”. He was a major promoter of area baseball who had served as an announcer for the Mankato Merchant game at Tanley Field and later for the Mankato Mets at Franklin Rogers Park.
In 2013, the construction of a grant for the Caswell sports facility was completed to meet the needs of youth football in the region. Adaptive baseball games are also played on Fallenstein Fields diamonds in the complex.
The complex has become a well-known sports facility that has hosted many local, state and national tournaments. City officials in 2016 spied on their success in The Free Press, saying the complex had attracted more participants – and dollars – to sporting events than ever before.
As a result, the city of Caswell Park was renamed Caswell Sports.
Events played at Caswell include the US Youth Soccer Minnesota State Cup, the North American Fastpitch Association World Series and various competitions, triathlons and 5K races. Caswell Park, as well as the Caswell North Soccer Complex, have drawn crowds as top 60,000. Fans and attendees have spent millions locally on hotels, restaurants, gas, shopping and groceries.
After all the football matches and softball tournaments are finished at Caswell this autumn, construction crews will move in to start major renovations to the original 35-year-old softball complex, as well as the newer Caswell North football complex.
In March, the city council approved setting up the funding package to move forward with $ 5 million in upgrades to the park and to complete design plans for an indoor recreation facility. The funding comes from $ 2.3 million in local revenue funds, a $ 2 million grant awarded by the state last year, and $ 700,000 donated by local softball and football user groups.
Approximately $ 2.65 million of work will be done on the softball complex, including replacement of all fences and backstops, shading for spectators, light upgrades, an expansion of the size of two fields, six new scoreboards, video streaming upgrades, additional seating for spectators and extensions and upgrades of the licensing stand and the toilets, including making them ADA compliant.
(This column contains information compiled for the centenary publication “The History of North Mankato” published in June 1998, and the city’s website.)