Sports Complexes: How Proven Investments Benefit Players, Fans, and Communities

Amanda Prosser, PLA
Sports + Recreation Business Unit Leader
June 8, 2023

With more than 50 years of history, ISG Field has inspired enough stories to fill a book. From young players learning to swing a bat to competitive amateur adult leagues, the field has provided hours of play time and spectator viewing entertainment. Maintaining and operating a large sports complex like ISG Field is a significant enterprise, keeping team owners and managers seeking new ways to fill the seats.

ISG’s Sports + Recreation Business Unit, work with teams to design sports complex improvements that maximize investment. In 2018, the City of Mankato and owners of the Mankato MoonDogs—a Northwoods League amateur baseball franchise—enlisted ISG to reimagine the park to become a premier recreation destination. The impact of smart, strategic improvements has resulted in better team and player performance, helped in recruiting and retaining talent, and increased field usage, fan attendance, economic growth, and civic pride in the community.

Protect Players + Improve Team Performance

Protecting athletes is a vital component in athletic facility improvements, and a major difference-maker in the health of athletes is the playing surface. ISG has transitioned dozens of clients from natural to synthetic turf, including the Mankato MoonDogs, who are now experiencing a decrease in player injuries.

ISG turf experts upgraded the uneven, natural surface to a synthetic AstroTurf, which uses RootZone technology, a combination of sand and synthetic turf. The turf technology has a realistic appearance, exceptional durability, reduces operating costs, and decreases the likelihood of player injuries. The new field also improves drainage, eliminating previous flooding that had postponed games. Upgrading to turf also simplifies grounds maintenance, lowers operating costs, and reduces the facility’s carbon footprint through the elimination of mowing and watering.

Since installing synthetic turf in 2019, the MoonDogs’ practice and play time has increased, improving their win rate by 22%. In 2021, the team made the playoffs and hosted the Northwoods All-Star Game to end the season with an impressive 54-24 record. Additionally, the team was awarded the Northwoods League’s Organization of the Year.

Attract Top Talent To Your Roster

State-of-the-art complexes with better training environments and high-quality equipment, not only keep players healthy, but can help teams attract and retain top talent.

In 2021, Bethany Lutheran College moved its baseball program to ISG Field. The move came at an opportune time as student enrollment was growing and available space for their expanding Division  3 athletic programming was constrained. BLC understood that better facilities would aid in recruiting student-athletes. Bethany Vikings head coach, Ryan Kragh states, “ISG Field is better than most Division 1 baseball programs. Recruits are excited when they see that they will play Division 3 baseball in a Division 1-level facility".MoonDogs General Manager, Tyler Kuch also states, “We hear visiting players say how awesome this field is, and sometimes we end up getting those players the following year. This field has earned us a reputation, giving us the ability to recruit better players.”

Invest in the Fan Experience

Creating an atmosphere of excitement and engagement is vital when designing for the fan experience. The goal is to keep fans absorbed in the game and build a lifelong loyalty to watch their team from the stands. When fans see that their team is committed to creating a quality experience for them, they’re more likely to attend games and spend money on merchandise and concessions.

A fun, comfortable, and engaging fan experience was the focus of design investments at ISG Field. The MoonDogs -and Bethany Lutheran College-branded entrance welcomes spectators, while new concession stands, updated restroom facilities, and a shaded canopy accommodate fan comfort and needs. To bring the action up close, the installation of a left field scoreboard and a right field 20x50-foot video board add excitement to the gameday atmosphere.

Casual seating on landscaped berms allow children to run while caregivers relax, offering a fun and stress-free experience for young families. The stadium’s hospitality areas were overhauled to provide private table seating, a restaurant-style grill, private wait staff, and unlimited food and beverage options. One-of-a-kind, two-tiered shipping container suites give business sponsors an exclusive outfield perspective of the game. “The group suites are impacting our bottom line. Sales are trending upward, and we expect that to continue”, Kuch remarked.

Since completing renovations in 2021, the MoonDogs averaged 1,365 attendees per game, a 100% increase since 2017, and the facility has doubled its revenue. “2021 and 2022 were recording setting years for us; in no small part to the renovations”, stated Kuch. These reimagined, modern amenities are drawing fans in and keeping them coming back.

Lift Up Your Local Economy

Athletic facilities often serve multiple organizations and community needs and events. This is seen first-hand at ISG Field, as the park supports amateur, collegiate, high school, and club level baseball, in addition to serving as an event space for interested  groups.

Like many communities, Mankato has numerous sports groups who are competing for field use. There simply isn’t enough turf to meeting the growing demand for playing space. The investments to ISG Field are filling this gap, which is demonstrated by field usage being up 2.5 times since its completion.

Investment in sports facilities can be a major economic boom for communities as games and tournaments bring in fans who spend money at hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses. A recent report released by the Sports Events and Tourism Association shows the total economic impact from U.S. sports tourism at $91.8 billion, supporting 635,000 full-time and part-time jobs and generating $12.9 billion in taxes. Successful teams like the MoonDogs and BLC Vikings are generating revenue for local businesses and creating jobs in the area, making Mankato a better place to live and work.

Sports Facility Investment Matters

Athletic complex improvements are smart investments for team owners, players, and communities alike. The overall benefits are innumerable, as they help to attract new players and fans, improve player performance, and create a sense of community pride. As an A/E/C firm with over 50 years of experience, ISG is proud to partner with athletes, coaches, communities, and fans as they bond through sports experiences that create memories and friendships that last a lifetime.

But don’t take our word for it. Tune in to the ISG original Blue's Flash throughout the summer as Sports + Rec Development Strategist, Darren Blue, captures insights and reactions from the field on the impact of these investments on players, teams, and fans.

Blue's Flash

Watch the full-length Blue’s Flash interview with BLC Head Baseball Coach, Ryan Kragh below!

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Amanda Prosser, PLA
Sports + Recreation Business Unit Leader
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Amanda Prosser, PLA

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