For the first time in four decades, Melaleuca Field is getting a new outfield wall.
The new fence has been under construction since the end of the 2015 Idaho Falls Chukars season, and it is scheduled to be completed in mid-May. Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said the old plywood fence was rotting, so the City of Idaho Falls could no longer put off the project.
“It needed to be done,” Greene said. “When you build a ballpark like Melaleuca Field, you need to maintain it.”
The last time the city built a new wall at Melaleuca Field was around 1974, according to Idaho Falls Parks and Cemetery superintendent Brent Martin, who is overseeing the new wall project. The previous wall was built after a windstorm blew the wall over. The new wall survived a fire that burned down Melaleuca Field (then Highland Park) in 1975, and it lasted until this previous fall.
The fence was ready to be replaced years ago.
The stadium was rebuilt — and renamed Melaleuca Field — in 2007, but there wasn’t enough money to replace the outfield wall, Greene said. Martin said the city council repeatedly denied Parks and Recreation requests to fund a new wall due to high proposed costs.
As the years passed, the wall became increasingly unstable.
“There were support beams that were literally sheared off from the bottom,” Greene said. “I would go up there on an extension ladder and the whole thing would shake. I felt unsafe being 8-10 feet off the ground.”
Greene said the Kansas City Royals, the Chukars’ MLB affiliate, contacted him asking for the wall to be replaced out of concern for player safety.
The wall came down shortly after the Chukars’ season ended in September.
Martin said the city budgeted $125,000 for the new wall, and so far the city has spent $70,000 on materials. Greene also secured contracts with Rodda Paint, Ashgrove Cement and Valley Ready Mix for the project.
High school baseball teams are currently playing at Melaleuca Field in front of an unfinished wall of plywood. Greene said the wall will be completed in less than two months, before the Chukars come to town. The wall’s advertisement banners will be placed in the exact same spots as last year, which will help mask the changes to fans this summer.
“It will look just like it did before,” Greene said. “You won’t notice any difference.”