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Published March 23, 2009, 12:54 PM

Farmington couple set to open batting cages

Todd Stephenson has always been a bit of a dreamer. As long as they’ve been married it’s been wife Mechelle’s job to make sure those dreams didn’t stray too far from reality.

By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent

Todd Stephenson has always been a bit of a dreamer. As long as they’ve been married it’s been wife Mechelle’s job to make sure those dreams didn’t stray too far from reality.

So, the idea for the pheasant farm? That’s gone. Raising ostriches for profit? Buried in the sand. And the indoor park? Well, Todd hasn’t given up completely on that one yet, but economic realities mean it’s probably not coming anytime soon.

Sometime last year, though, Todd got an idea he just couldn’t let go of. He wanted to create a place where Farmington teens could hang out. Somewhere they could have some fun.

He wanted to open batting cages. And the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.

“There’s not much in Farmington for kids to do,” Todd said. “I kind of was thinking about a teen center, but that didn’t seem to work.

“I’d like to see kids hang out in there and play games rather than on the street corner.”

Months went by, and Todd kept researching the idea. He looked online to find the perfect nets. The best pitching machines. Eventually Mechelle had to admit this wasn’t just another one of her husband’s crazy ideas.

“I realized this was a little bit more than one of his pipe dreams,” she said. “I kind of got sucked into it.”

Neither has any experience running a business. Todd works for the city’s sanitation department and Mechelle is a registered nurse. But Todd’s always wanted to run his own business.

Now the couple is just days away from opening The Bat Cage. The business, which will open April 4 in the horticulture building on the Dakota County Fairgrounds, will include three token-operated batting cages, arcade games and snacks.

For the time being, at least, it’s a short-term thing. They’ll move into the building starting April 2, after people have cleared out the cars stored in the building for the winter. They’ll have to be out by July 18 to make way for the Dakota County Fair.

In the meantime, the couple’s Farmington home is packed with the equipment they’ll use for the business. Batting cages are collapsed and tucked into corners and there are boxes of Twix bars and sports drinks spread out on the kitchen counter.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. And that’s more than the couple thought it would have early in the process. Even as he was doing his research Todd was unsure where he’d be able to put his batting cages.

“I learned buildings were a little more expensive than I thought,” Todd said.

That’s when someone suggested the fairgrounds.

Using the fair building isn’t exactly cheap, but Todd said it’s “doable.”

He believes the business will make money even in the three-and-a-half months it’s open — “The time we’re in there is the peak time,” he said. And he hopes to expand. If he can prove the business is a better use of the fair building than car storage the space could be available to him other times during the year.

“They want to keep their building occupied, but they want to put it to good use, also,” Mechelle said.

And if things go really well? Well, there’s always that indoor park.

The batting cages will be open from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Find out more about The Bat Cage online at thebatcagefarmington.com or call 651-328-0866.

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