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Dozer Park christened

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It is rather common in Peoria to see Caterpillar Inc. earthmovers parked in spots other than construction sites. But on the concourse of a baseball stadium?

Why sure, when that stadium is called Dozer Park in honor of the earthmoving equipment that made Caterpillar the world's top manufacturer of heavy machinery.

Bulldozers, which these days are called track-type tractors, will be parked there every season for the next 10 years, the length of the contract that allows caterpillar the right to name the stadium.

It was made official Friday night during a ceremony in which the ribbon was cut on Dozer Park by Caterpillar Chairman Doug Oberhelman. Afterward the crowd gathered at the main gate for the ceremony was invited by Oberhelman to check out the antique bulldozer parked down the right field line and the new machine -- a D4 -- parked down the left field line.

"Caterpillar is a proud new sponsor of the stadium," Oberhelman said in brief remarks. He and his wife Diane brought their twin black labs with them; they're named Dozer and Diesel.

The only glitch in the ceremony was that the blue tarp covering the Dozer Park sign above the front entrance got hung up when officials tried to pull the string to release it and unveil the sign. After much tugging it finally pulled free as the crowd of a couple hundred -- waiting for the gates to open for the Chiefs' game against Clinton -- cheered.

By then, however, the dignitaries in hand had entered the stadium. Those dignitaries included several Caterpillar officials, local politicians, partners in the group that owns the tam and stadium, and Pete and Rocky Vonachen, the father and son principal owners of the team.

Rocky Vonachen lauded the efforts of city officials in helping restructure the debt on the stadium and the support of caterpillar in acquiring the naming rights at $200,000 a year for 10 years.

That kind of help, he aid, "will keep professional baseball in Peoria for a long, long time."

Before the festivities began, the crowd that had gathered seemed excited about the new name.

"I like it; I think it's really kind of appropriate for Peoria," said one man. "I love the stadium and it would have been a real shame if they hadn't been able to work this out."

Another man, dressed in Chicago Cubs shirt and hat, said he also thought the new stadium name "had a nice ring to it. This is a great place to watch a game, even if it is the Cards affiliate now. As long as it's good baseball, that's what counts."

Well, that didn't happen for the Chiefs on Friday night. They lost to Clinton, 12-4.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).