With baseball at Warner Park still a question mark because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Madison Mallards’ Duck Pond is about to go cinematic.
Next week, the Mallards will premiere drive-in movie nights (and days) in the outfield at the Duck Pond, starting on Wednesday with a showing of the Disney film “Aladdin” on the brightly lighted left field video board.
For $40 per vehicle, carloads of movie fans will be able to drive onto the outfield grass, tune in the sound on their FM radios and watch Hollywood favorites.
Vern Stenman, president of the Mallards, said he’s not sure where the idea came from — maybe from somewhere else in the U.S. where something similar is being done — but he said he has “an affinity for the concept.”
“I can’t remember the exact genesis,” he said. “It’s one of those things someone on the staff saw happening elsewhere.”
The start of the Northwoods League season, which was to be May 26, is on hold because of the pandemic, like most sports leagues in the world. The decision to play games, he said, is up to the league and the health departments in the states where teams are located. Still, Stenman says, “We remain optimistic we will play some baseball this year.”
In the meantime, though, why not make the Duck Pond a drive-in movie theater?
“I think it’s fair to look at it as a placeholder until we’re able to play baseball,” Stenman said. “We’ve always been about entertainment. It’s a cool way for the community to come together. It’s very consistent with what we’ve done.”
For $40, the number of guests per car is limited to the number of seat belts in the car. About 100 cars will fit on the field. Tickets will only be sold electronically, through the Mallards website, mallardsbaseball.com. No ticket-sellers will be at the park entrance, and no cash ticket sales will be available.
“The intent is that everything is pre-sale,” Stenman said.
Tickets will go on sale at 4 p.m. Friday.
Because the intent is to offer entertainment during a pandemic, there are a number of rules: Social distancing is to be practiced at all times, face coverings are to be worn when outside vehicles, and those attending must sit inside their vehicles and can only get out to use the restroom or visit the concession stand. Carry-in food and beverages are not allowed.
The program, which is currently set through May 26, includes days when two films will be shown. Because the park has to be empty by 11 p.m., movies start when the sky is still light, but the screen is bright enough to project a picture in daylight, Stenman said.
In addition to “Aladdin” on Wednesday, the program includes “Frozen 2” on May 21; “Toy Story 4” and “Black Panther” on May 22; “Inside Out” and “Knives Out” on May 23; “The Secret Life of Pets” and “The Princess Bride” on May 24; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on May 25; and “The Sandlot” on May 26. Two-film days require separate admission for each.
Stenman said the program is intended to be a mix of offerings for families and grownups. He said he hopes to show “The Big Lebowski” at some point.
Restrooms will be available during movie showings, with marks on the ground to allow for adequate social distancing while waiting. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be sold at the park by credit card only. There will be simple snacks at first, Stenman said, but hot food will be available later.
To protect the field, there won’t be movies when it’s raining or when recent rain has softened the outfield. If cancellations occur, patrons will be given credit for another movie or event, but not refunds.
Stenman gives a lot of credit to the city and county for making the drive-in experience happen, including Public Health Madison and Dane County and the city Parks Department, along with other city agencies.
“We were able to go in three days from zero to an approved event,” Stenman said.
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