In the early years of Bismarck baseball, games were played on at least four different fields. In 1921, Bismarck lumberman John A. Larson built a baseball field in the southwest corner of Washington Street and Front Avenue. With many updates and renovations throughout the past century, the ballpark, now coined Dakota Community Bank & Trust Field (DCB&T) is home to the Bismarck Larks Northwoods League baseball team.
In 2020, the Bismarck Larks will enter their fourth season at DCB&T Field under the advisement of General Manager John Bollinger. Bollinger came to Bismarck having had prior experience starting a different baseball team in Kalamazoo in 2014.
The ballpark currently holds 1,900 seats. Bollinger is proud that the Bismarck Larks have one of the “most beautiful, intimate facilities in the league. It might be smaller than some, but when it’s sold out and it’s rockin’, it’s one of the most energetic places to see a game that I’ve ever been at.” That pride carries over into the Lark’s relationships within their community. The Larks have their regional following, but the excitement and entertainment behind the team has brought in loyal attendees from numerous outlaying towns including Dickinson, Jamestown, Beulah, Glen Ullin, Wishek, Washburn and beyond.
The Larks credit a lot of their success within the local community to the support that has stood behind them from day one. Their sponsors, large and small, and the community of Bismarck-Mandan have rallied behind the Larks to help make baseball a go-to summer attraction for the entire family. “The Bismarck Larks truly would not be here without Dakota Community Bank & Trust. You guys have been a pillar for the Larks to become a staple of family fun, family memories, and family entertainment; and we get to do it at Dakota Community Bank & Trust Field every night which is pretty special,” states Bollinger.
Bollinger also credits the Larks success to the timing of ‘the perfect storm.’ “For us, we had a community that has amazing businesses that wanted us to succeed and support us in any way possible. We had an amazing fan base that wanted to help us succeed, and so when we put those two things together it truly did take off beyond our expectations.” In their first season, they sold out 27 of their 36 games. After adding 300 seats to the ballpark, within their second season, the Larks still managed to sell out 30 of the 36 home games. In their third year, in 2019, the Larks sold out of 97% of every kind of ticket they have. This growth has been substantial not only for the ballpark and the Larks team but also for the Larks front office. In the short time the Larks have been a part of Bismarck, their staff has grown from a team of five to eleven full time employees.
The Bismarck Larks mission is to use fun to make a difference every day. Bollinger recalls asking DCB&T President Dale Pahlke – how they use fun to make a difference every day. “Our goal is to use fun to make a difference for families, for businesses that sponsor us, and to make a difference in our community,” shared Bollinger. From there, the conversation turned to: how to give back and focus on community programs that the two could partner together to assist.
With the help of their various sponsors, Bollinger is most proud of the difference the Larks have been able to make with area non-profits, as well as assistance for veterans, fire and police departments, area teachers, and more. From food drives resulting in over 3,600 pounds of food in one day to cash donations from their Miracle Minute promotion, the Larks have been making a difference in Bismarck in more ways than just baseball. “Our jersey auction with Dakota Community Bank & Trust alone raised roughly $10,000 for the MSA United Way; if you look at all of our giving last year (2019), hard cash dollars, we donated about $42,000. When I think of ‘Dakota Community Bank’ that can just be a name, but you guys live it.”
The Bismarck Larks baseball players are also actively involved in community appearances and volunteering throughout their summer residency. While the players do as much as they can in the short time they are here, baseball is their main objective – playing 72 games in 76 days.
Over 175,000 people have come through the Bismarck Larks gates in their three year history. Though their time in Bismarck has been brief thus far, the lasting impact the Larks have on their fans, supporters, players, sponsors, and local community has been momentous. “It truly is a great place to be,” Bollinger says of both Bismarck and the Bismarck Larks.
Written by Lindsey Hefta, Marketing Director