Softball has been a favorite pastime of youth and adults for many years. As far back as the 1930’s, and prior, softball was played in the early evening hours with players and fans adjusting their dinner hour to get out to the ball park. Such Wausau area teams as the Grant Giants, North Ends, Irving Yanks, South Ends, Schofield, and Rothschild Papers played some to the best fast pitch with the 33 ft. pitching distance. Games were played at Franklin School, Grant School, Irving School, Athletic Park, then known as Recreation Park, John Marshall School, Schofield and Rothschild. There were also many youth leagues on the school diamonds. Eventually the Church and Industrial Leagues were added, all under the supervision of the YMCA. In 1953 the Wisconsin Valley Softball League was formed and disbanded in 1971 due to numerous tourneys and conflicts with scheduling.
Horgen Field on North Third street became the first lighted field in the 1951 and in 1963 Thom Field came into existence. These two fields were used until 1965 when, two months prior to opening, Horgan Field was developed into an Industrial Plant. This resulted in using Marathon Park for twilight games until July of the year when lights were installed. Marathon Park and Thom were then used along with a Schofield diamond until 1973 when Kelly Athletic Club opened operations. The Kelly Field was rented, Schofield was played at until twilight and West High School and Marathon City were contracted for some rainout games from 1975 77.
The YMCA operated all these programs. In 1958, Secretary Treasurer, Lou Marth, was engaged by the Y to operate the program for them. In 1958 there were 9 Independent teams, 11 Church League, and 3 in the City League. The Independent League originally was the Industrial League but due to a strike at a local plant in 1956 it was disbanded. The year 1960 saw the 16″ Slow Pitch League formed and in 1962 the Independent League again became the Industrial League and continued until 1970 when it reverted to the Independent League and in 1973 it was incorporated into the City Fast Pitch League. In 1966 the 16″ League was discontinued in favor of the 14″ Slow Pitch League. The year 1967 saw the formation of the first Women’s League. It was a fast pitch league, but in 1972 converted to slow pitch due to a few teams dominating the league. The Men’s 12″ Slow Pitch began operations in 1971.
In the fall of 1967 the YMCA advised the league that they were discontinuing their softball operations and assisted in the forming of the Wausau Area Softball Association, Inc. Former Governor Tony Earl, then City Attorney, also assisted in incorporating the Association and it was officially incorporated on April 11, 1968 as a non profit organization. The original board consisted of Paul Gaureke, President; Lou Marth, Secretary Treasurer, and Directors: Art Siewert (Women), Arnie Rohloff, Jr. (Church), John Imhoff (Industrial), Les Schwartz (City), and Ernie Hoenisch (Slow Pitch) In addition an advisory committee of 3 members from each league was elected to the board.
In early 1975, WASA Secretary and Park Superintendent met with the Human Services Board of the Health Care Center and discussed the possibility of the 27 acres, formerly used for daily cattle, and vacant at the time, to be donated to the park department for construction of a 4 diamond, lighted complex. It was eventually approved and bids let out for grading which began on 9/30/1977. It was anticipated that two fields would be ready for 1978 play, however, the weather proved otherwise and 3M was temporarily used until 7/12/1978 when diamonds #1 and #2 began operations under the lights. Diamonds #3 and #4 were ready on 5/13/1979 so that all 4 were in use in 1979. The concession stand consisted of an old warming house, placed a adjacent to #1 and used until 1980 when the present concession building was constructed. For 4 years we fought the Northwestern Railroad for a road across the tracks and eventually won the fight.
Dedication ceremonies were held in the fall of 1981 with the field dedicated to Louis E. Marth.
Improvements noted are building 3 shelters, remodeling to enlarge the concession stand extending the building to the west and a beer garden to the east, installation of score boxes (courtesy of Stettin Lion’s Club), playground equipment (courtesy of anonymous donor), distance markers (courtesy of Sun Press), scoreboards (courtesy of Pepsi Cola to a great extent), turfstone in concession area in 1987 was replaced with Terra Loc. Terra Loc was also installed on the north side of the building. The total cost to the Association for the complex as of $135,000.00. In 1988, cooling units for bubblers were installed, and an additional cooler for the concession building has been constructed. Also, in the late fall of 1988, security fences were installed separating dugouts from bleachers complete with bat racks. Wooden base lines, painted white, were also installed, and new mesh foul line poles were completed.
Membership fees in 1968 were $2.00 for men and $1.50 for women, which eventually went to $1.60 for everyone. This was subsequently raised to $4.00 per player with a $50.00 entry fee. In 1977, with the building program, this was raised to $10.00 and $75.00, and due to additional improvements is now $12.00 and $90.00.
In 1989, after season’s end, Sunnyvale #1 & #2 infield poles were removed and new and higher poles installed as well as an additional 2 fixtures on each field. A new parking lot and light was also installed behind backstop on #2.
In 1991 the four infields at Sunnyvale were reconstructed with 6 8″ fill and new sod was placed on the edge of infields at a cost of $1791. Also through a cost sharing project with Pepsi Cola, 4 new scoreboards were installed, complete with new electronic score pads and electrical work at the Association cost of $6,900.
Only one member of the original board, Lou Marth, remains an active board member, due to the retirement of Roger Wolfgrarn and the death of Harvey Newman in the ’91 season.
Due to Marathon County Budget cuts the Park Department advised that users would be required to absorb additional expenses of Sunnyvale. Board met with Park Commission and your officers had an additional 3 meetings with Park Director and Commission. The net result was a flat fee for 1993 of $15,000 in addition to paying light fee and concession rent. No recognition was given for the expense of building the complex, which was paid by the Association. In lieu of this the membership fee was increased from $15 to $20 and team fee from $90 to $100. Your board will monitor the work we are paying for.
In the fall of 1993 Diamond #5 at Sunnyvale was begun and the parking lot was extended on the east end. The light poles in the outfield of #4 were brought in 50 feet to the edge of the outfield fence. During the spring of 1994 Diamond #5 will be completed with lights, fencing, bleachers, dugouts, and scoreboard. A maintenance shed will also be constructed. Cost to WASA will be approximately $60,000, bringing WASA investment to over $200,000. An additional 2 inches of mix was applied to the other 4 fields as well as the area outside the baselines. Opening date for #5 was July 1st to allow grass to become firm. Then games at Marathon Park were moved to Sunnyvale #5. Thom Field will continue to be used for 1994. The cost amounted to $75,746.66. Contributions totaled $19,953.50, and Park Department payments for materials of $8841.48 reduced the cost to WASA to $46,951.68. Wisconsin Public Service also donated many hours of labor. As a result WASA was required to secure a loan of $16,000. A burglar alarm system for the concession stand was also completed for the 1994 season. Field rent for 1994 was $15450,00.
Rental fee to the Park Dept. has been increased to $17,753.00 for 1995. To absorb these costs, the board recommended an increase in fees for all Slow Pitch members to $25, Fast Pitch members $30, and team entries to $125 per team. Thom Field has been eliminated per School Board and Marathon Park was used on a limited schedule due to increased park activities and tentative reconstruction by the Fair Board for their use. Future projects for Sunnyvale includes restroom and concession facilities in the east end, and concession improvements at our present location. WASA hosted it’s first outside tournament with the NAFA fastpitch national qualifier.
For 1996 all games are scheduled at the Sunnyvale complex The Park Department has once again increased the rental fee, for 1996 it totals $18,288.00. A new tournament format is being tried to boost participation in Association tournaments. With the success of the NAFA tournament in 1995, it is being re bid for July 1996. WASA will also be hosting the ASA Fastpitch C & D National qualifier and the County Concrete Fastpitch invitational featuring world class fastpitch teams and action. The past rain out procedure has also been revamped to allow for continuous play throughout the summer. The first annual end of the season FALL MEETING was held Sept. 7, 1996 at the Marathon Park Youth Building. Comments from those attending this meeting were incorporated into board discussions at following meetings. This meeting should grow in importance and attendance as time goes on.
For 1997 all games will be scheduled at the Sunnyvale Complex. The Park Dept. again increased our fee to $18,818.00. The WASA Board elected to affiliate with the ASA for insurance, tournament and informational reasons. All WASA teams will now be eligible for ASA State and National tournament play. The Park Dept. and Marathon County annexed approximately 5 acres of land to the softball complex for future growth. The Association also signed the first combined field/concession contract with the County, giving us better financial control. Tournament play has again been revised and expanded with the addition of a number of ASA tournaments. Paul and Doris Lange announced that they will not be able to operate the concession stand for 1997. As long time boosters of WASA activities they will be missed by all members of our association. The success of our first year of ASA affiliation allowed us to successfully bid 3 ASA tournaments for next year to be hosted at the Sunnyvale Complex. Weather in 1997 was unusually cool, but dry, so we had only 90 rainouts for the season. A new contract for softdrinks at our concession stand was negotiated with Pepsi making changes to the equipment Used and products offered. They will also provide promotional assistance allowing for more publicity of association activities and better membership communication. Their commitment to WASA also provides for improvements to the complex that would have been difficult to fund on our own.
1998 started with a rough night opening the Association concession stand. New equipment from Pepsi, and a new staff created some unusual start up problems. The Church League and Fast Pitch League Directors stepped up and took over, turning it into a smooth operation in a very short time. Early weather was cool but rain outs only totaled 48 for the season. New tournament formats were tried and met with success The Park Department fee increased again to $19063.00. The Board worked all year to try to realize improvements in maintenance and service with limited success. Continuing negotiations with the Park Department were conducted all year to try and resolve the costs of operating the complex. More work will be done on all of these projects in 1999.
1999 started with entries up 5, the first gain in 8 years. Weather was dry but cold through May. The WASA Board negotiated with the park Department from January-May to produce a contract that shared responsibility for maintenance in an attempt to lower costs, but at the last minute the Park Department did a switch and fell back to the methods used in prior years. Fee for 1999 was $19,195.00. We again successfully hosted the ASA Seniors National Qualifier and KC State Tournaments. Rain outs for 1999 were 128. The single night player rule was used 128 times.
2000 saw a slight drop in team entries to 134. Weather again proved challenging, especially early in the season. This year saw the first use of the long awaited “floating fence” on field 3 allowing it to be set up for slow pitch or fast pitch by moving the outfield fence. The association paid $19,800.00 for the rent of the complex this year. The board continues working with the park department whenever possible to reduce or rein in these costs. There were 84 rain outs in 2000.
2001 brought us rain, lots of rain, especially Monday nights. Some teams did not play a game until June. Rain outs totaled 122 for the year. After the start of June things smoothed out and the season went without further delays. For the first time, the scorekeepers provided the new game ball for each game. This change proved popular and will be continued. Discussions with the Park Department regarding expanding the Association’s offerings resulted in the installation of volleyball courts. The board is working on a format to offer volleyball leagues to boost the use of the complex and association membership. Hope is to offer these leagues in 2002. We again successfully hosted several ASA and the KC State tournaments and plan to continue bidding these events in the future.
Park rent for 2001 was $20,444.00. After extensive testing by WPS, the Park Department authorized a complete re-wiring and service upgrade for the lighting on fields 1,2,3, and 4. This work is scheduled to be completed before the start of play in 2002.
2002 was a season of many changes. The most notable is the inclusion of the Wausau Area Girls Softball Association (WAGSA) as a WASA division of play. The merger is the result of years of discussion between the two organizations and offers new opportunities to everyone involved.
The Park Department completed the re-wiring of fields 1, 2, 3, and 4. This project modernized and expanded the electrical service in these areas and provided lighting for the volleyball pits. In addition the entire park received a new look and a new coat of paint.
The Association again hosted the KC State Tournament and 4 ASA State Championship/National Qualifier Tournaments. We played over 1100 games with 118 rainouts and 8 forfeits. Park rent for the year was $20913.70, totaling $28,920.00 including concession rents.
2003 was a fairly typical season. The association gained a few teams and members continuing a growth trend. The WAGSA and Women’s fastpitch divisions continued to smooth into the flow of WASA operations. The Park Dept. began construction of new stairways to the score booths and will eventually add storage rooms below the stairs. A new PVC portable fence was purchased to allow short field play on field 2 for Women’s fast pitch and the JO tournament.
The Association again hosted the KC State Championship as well as the ASA State Fast Pitch and JO State Championships. The tournaments all ran smoothly and successfully due to the efforts of our volunteers and staff.
We had 174 teams with approximately 2400 members. 114 rainouts and 20 forfeits. Park rent was $21,516.02 totaling $31,178.19 including concession rents.
2004 was a pretty normal year. Team entries totaled 156, rain outs 116. Work continued on the new stairways to the score boxes and the storage areas below the stairs. A new strike format was used at the start of the season in Men’s and Women’s slowpitch and proved t be unpopular. At mid season the strike zone reverted to the 2003 rule for the balance of the season. The issue was then set to be reviewed at the 2005 annual meeting. Attendance at the JO and KC State Tournaments was down, probably due to conflicting dates with other events. The Board and Park Dept. continued to assess possibilities for better protection of fans in the concession area and hope to have a solution for the upcoming season.
Park rent was $27,064.68 plus concession rent of $8,287.23 for a total rental cost of $35,351.91 for the season.
2005 Team entries totaled 151, rainouts 79. The slow pitch strike rule was finalized at the annual meeting and a success during play. WASA had no outside tournaments during 2005. After many meetings and a lot of discussion, work finally began on the protective cover for the concession stand area. The framework was completed after the season ended and the netting will be installed prior to the start of the 2006 season. Foul balls should no longer be a danger to people in this area. Despite park services like Ranger patrol and parking maintenance declining, fees continued to increase. Park rent for the year was $27,795.42 plus the concession assessment of $7,437.24 for a total this year of 35,232.66!
2006 Team entries totaled 141, rainouts 52. There were no outside tournaments in 2006. The Park Department finished the installation of the protective cover over the concession stand by installing attractive vinyl coated chain link panels in the framework completed at the end of last season. This cover should protect the concession area very well for many years to come. Fees for 2006 were $28,657.00 plus the concession assessment of $6,535.00 for a total of $35,193.00. The year ended
with the association very tight on cash, so your Officers began discussion with the Park Department seeking ways to help reduce costs and make operations more affordable. There will be more to come for 2007.
2007 Team entries totaled 134. Once again there were no outside tournaments at the complex. After a cool start, most of the season was pretty dry so we had only about 50 rainouts. Park Department fees for 2007 were billed at $24,500.00 for park rent and $6,380.00 for concession fees totaling $30,858.00 for the year. WASA was unable to pay this entire amount resulting in the Board of Directors requesting meetings with the Park Department, the County Administrator and the Park Commission, to discuss the financial future of the Association and the ongoing impact of the current fee structure. Most of this activity was set to take place in early 2008 and has not been finalized. The Board is reviewing all aspects of the Association operations going back over 13 years to develop a reasonable perspective on the strengths and trends necessary to remain viable and will seek member input at the annual meeting. Efforts to develop new leagues and bolster existing leagues will continue as we try to make WASA the best option for summer recreation in the area.
2008 team entries total 126. The season started cool and wet then changed to very dry by mid July and ran out the season that way. 2008 was a regroup year in a way with many ideas on league formats, financing, and operations reviews all looking for ways to continue offering a quality program at a reasonable cost for all parties involved. The concessions staff stepped up with many new and improved menu items. At the end of the season, the old bleachers were removed and new ones installed to be ready for 2009.
2009 team entries total 132. The season was very dry with only 57 rainouts. A co-ed slow pitch league was added to the adult divisions of play and a Rookie league for 1st and 2nd grade girls was added to the WAGSA lineup. Women’s fast pitch grew to 11 teams, most ever in that division. All divisions of play except Masters/Grand Masters transitioned to the optic yellow ball for all games. The year ended on a very sad note with the passing of Lou Marth in December. Lou was a founder of the Association, Secretary/Treasurer from 1968 until 2007 and the backbone of WASA for much
of it’s existence.
2010 Team entries total 134. Co-ed slow pitch and women’s fast pitch both showed growth. Member support of WASA was evident in league play and at the concession stand.
2011 Team entries total 132. The season started a little rainy and cool but quickly heated up. Many divisions had ties and playoffs showing a real balance in ability. Concessions were improved with many added menu items.
2012 Team entries 128. Very hot a dry summer, rain only affected Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Girls ASA State B tournament was a big success and will be back again for 2103. Once again, many divisions had ties and playoff games. Competition was evenly balanced.
2013 Started as a very wet season, some divisions did not have a game until early June. Then it got HOT and dry during July. August brought a more normal weather pattern and the season finished out with many divisions being decided by a single game or playoff game. The WASA hosted ASA Girls Fast Pitch tournaments were once again very successful die to the hard work of the committee that organized them with the help of the Wausau Visitor Council Sports Authority.
2014 Brought Roger Nowitzke out of retirement to serve as Secretary Treasurer. Work to improve concessions menu and service really paid off with a better year all around. Rain played a big role on Mondays with many teams facing late season make up games. The success of the Girls State B and the Junebug tournaments allow us to host a National ASA Girls Fastpitch Tournament in 2015. The Sports Authority and high school booster clubs are a big help with these events. Presently our membership and games played read as follows: