John Burch Park has lit up the night for more than half a century, and baseball at the park dates back to the 1930s, according to Stadium Journey. The lights that allow night time usage of the park today, were installed in 2002 after a town-wide effort, including loans and a large fundraising effort.
A light pole in the park snapped in 2002, and it was apparent that it was time for replacements. Since the park is used by the city and the school for baseball, football and concerts, a deal was reached that Cannon Falls would pay $30,000, and the school district would match that.
The problem was that the lights cost a total of $160,000. That left $100,000 that had to come from somewhere else.
“We started doing winter baseball clinics,” said Cannon Falls Varsity Baseball Coach Bucky Lindow. “That became our yearly fundraising effort. We’ve done those for about 16 years now. It was something we knew we could handle. We had the expertise, and we had the place to do it.”
While the baseball clinic is something Lindow still does, there were other fundraisers, loans and outright donations. Those who donated at least $1,000 have their names on the restroom at the park, while those who donated $10,000 or more have green signs along the park that people can see as they drive by.
“We put a big pledge sign on the side of the bathroom,” said Community Education Director at the time, Sue Rheingans. "It’s got all the donations and who donated what. We have some big players on that. A couple of the banks donated $10,000, the fire department, booster club. That really got us on our way. The rest of the money came from the people who would donate $100 or $200 or $500.”
The lights allow both the high school team and the amateur teams to not only have longer practice hours, but allow night games, which often means more fans can attend and cheer on their team.
The allowance of night games also means there are more opportunities to play a wide array of teams, said Cannon Falls Bears Team President Keith Meyers.
“Usually the night games are non-league games, so they’re teams from further outside the area,” Meyers said. “If we didn’t have the lights, those teams would not come and play us. A lot of teams want to play here because we have the lights.”
The lights mean more to Cannon Falls than the ability to enjoy night-time sports games. In April of this year Mayor John Althoff authorized the lighting of the park to honor Cannon Falls High School seniors. The lights went on for 20 minutes each Wednesday night to honor the class of 2020.
Most recently, the light fixtures were replaced in 2014 and will allow for another 10 to 12 years of easy-to-see home runs and touchdowns.
“It's a nice thing this city has and we can take a lot of pride in it,” Lindow said.