Temperatures hovered near 70 about an hour before the scheduled walkthrough but had plunged at least 20 degrees by 3 p.m. Saturday and didn’t stop there, leveling out around the freezing mark by the time the event wrapped. The wind whipped mercilessly as well sending several hard hats flying and depositing an unwelcome load of sand and dirt in the hair and ears of attendees.
Undaunted, however, country singer/songwriter Randy Rogers, a product of Cleburne, and others remained determined to enjoy an up-close view of progress on the Depot, Cleburne’s soon-to-open minor league baseball stadium.
All walked away impressed if a mite chilly.
“I think this is going to be gorgeous,” Rogers said. “Easy to get to from downtown FW and obviously our town. I never dreamed this would happen in Cleburne, Texas.
“Growing up here as a kid and loving baseball I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for the children coming up now.”
Rogers is part owner of the Cleburne Railroaders, the team that will soon call the Depot home.
That same team beat the Fort Worth Cats in 1906 to claim the championship. Unfortunately, the owner relocated the team to Houston the following years. That team, after several iterations, eventually became the Houston Astros.
Minor league ball returned to Cleburne off and on — the subsequent teams flying under the Railroaders banner and other names — through the ’30s before fading away.
Until now that is.
Voters in 2015 approved construction of the Depot and the Railroaders. Construction of the stadium began several months ago and is on schedule to complete by April. The Railroaders, after a several decades break, resume play in May.
Work is also in the planning for Cleburne Station, a shopping, dining and entertainment center adjacent to the Depot.
Both sit at the doorstep of the Chisholm Trail Parkway’s Cleburne entrance and both, officials predict, will constitute a game changer of major economic impact through the years ahead.
Early Depot construction proved somewhat unexciting consisting as it did largely of underground and foundation work none of which was visible from nearby U.S. 67. Recent weeks have seen building shoot verticle, however, and obvious signs of progress.
“I don’t even recognize this as the turnip field we were walking through last year for the groundbreaking,” Cleburne Councilman Dale Sturgeon said. “I drive by here all the time and it seems like there’s something new added everyday.”
The skeleton of the stadium’s steel frame is largely in place with roofing and other details soon to come.
“I’ve been on site more times than I can really remember,” Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said. “There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.
“I’ve been to a lot of meetings and actual ballpark sites to look at the progress and some of the detailed decisions that have to be made.
“But it’s the first time I’ve been up underneath the steel since it’s been erected. It’s amazing. You can see it from the road and tell it’s coming to life. But to see it close up, it’s become very real.”
Cain and Cleburne Railroaders President Robbie Fenyes led Rogers and others though the site pointing out where home plate will be as well as the ticket office, museum and other attributes.
Cleburne Councilman Bob Kelly marveled at the speed at which it’s all coming along.
“I’m completely thrilled and excited at not just the pace but the sight of it and the fact that it truly is coming up to be what the community expected,” Fenyes said. “And I couldn’t be happier. “
Cleburne Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Marchel said she’s blown away by the progress so far. The Depot and Cleburne Station will increase Cleburne’s appeal and opportunities manyfold, Marchel predicted.
“It’s promoting business in the community which is what we’re about,” Marchel said. “This brings people here to Cleburne from other areas and we’re going to give them a great experience when they’re here and hope they stay here to enjoy all the other things we have. Times are great.”
State Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, was likewise impressed by what he saw.
“I can’t wait to see the stadium once it’s completed and we start playing baseball.” Burns said. “It’s going to be a good thing for our area and I’m also excited to see the economic development that’s going to come along with this.”
Cleburne City Manager said residents should expect to see swift progress from here out and encouraged everyone to start gearing up for May.
Cleburne Councilwoman Gayle White said she can’t wait.
“What’s here so far is marvelous, but I’m ready,” White said. “I’m excited. I want the grass in there. I want the seats in there and let’s go. It’s great.”
In addition to baseball, other sporting events, community events and concerts will stage out of the Depot. Including Cleburne’s favorite musical son.
“We don’t have the date set yet,” Rogers said. “But yeah, we’ll definitely be playing a show here.”
-Cleburne Times Review