The Alaska Goldpanners baseball team officially announced its new contract with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Wednesday. Last year, the semi-pro ball club had tangled with the borough over the safety issues at its home field, Growden Park. Differences have been set aside so the tradition of the Midnight Sun Game continues.Download AudioBoth Borough Mayor Karl Kassel and Goldpanner Board president John Lohrke Wednesday expressed enthusiasm over the contract they inked last week. Six months ago it was anyone’s call whether the semi-pro non-profit ball club could come to terms with the borough over degraded facilities and safety concerns at Growden Park. But Wednesday, Mayor Kassel sprinkled his remarks with baseball metaphors in describing the partnership he envisions to restore the Goldpanners to glory.“We’re going to recruit some money,” Kassel said. “There’s foundations out there that are willing to play ball with us. And we’ll bring some of that resource to the plate.”Mayor Kassel dismissed earlier estimates it would take millions to bring Growden Park to safe and attractive standards. He said the borough has already ponied up $230 thousand dollars to tear down unsafe bleachers and order temporary replacements. John Lohrke, who was recently named President of the ball club’s Board of Directors, pointed to the expanded board as an example of the community spirit both he and Kassel anticipate.“We’ve really got different faces on the board,” Lohrke said. “We’ve got about 25 to 30 [on the] Board of Directors. And it’s active. There’s people involved. There’s people raising their hands saying ‘I’ll do that. I can take care of that.”The new four year contract covers five seasons, and more clearly outlines Goldpanners’ responsibilities at Growden. Under the terms of the agreement, the Goldpanners plan to provide a financial statement to the borough April 20.As for season, Lohrke said the club has already recruited it coaches and 22 players. He says after some out-of-town games it will be ready to meet the Fairbanks All Stars for the first home game of the season June 17th.
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