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Are there any softball batting cages in the area? —Ruth, Iowa City, via Facebook.
“We have two outdoor cages at Napoleon Park,” Iowa City Recreation Superintendent Chad Dyson told Little Village. “The nets are up seasonally, from spring to the fall.”
The cages, along with the ballfields at the Napoleon Park (2501 S. Gilbert St), open April 1, weather permitting. The city doesn’t have any indoor cages for hitters who want to practice during the winter, Dyson said.
The cages are free and open to the public, no registration required.
“When there are Iowa City girls softball games and practices, the teams may be utilizing them,” Dyson said. “So, it’s a first-come-first-serve thing.”
Opened in 1978, Napoleon Park was named for the short-lived city of Napoleon, which used to occupy the park’s location. The city, named for the ambitious French soldier who became emperor, was founded in 1838 by an ambitious landowner, who hoped to make it the most important city in the Iowa territory. Napoleon, the emperor, was deposed and died in exile. Napoleon, the city, was doomed by the founding of Iowa City.
In 1838, Philip Clark laid out the city of Napoleon on the farm he owned in Johnson County. He convinced the territorial legislature to make Napoleon the county seat, and built a two story log cabin to serve as the Johnson County Courthouse.
But Clark’s ambitions went well beyond being the county seat. He knew Gov. Robert Lucas was pushing to move Iowa’s capital from Burlington to a location further from the Mississippi River. Clark wanted that new capital to be located on the land he owned in Napoleon. In 1839, Lucas created a three-man commission to select a site for the new capital city. Clark was able to convince the commissioners to come to Napoleon, but that was all. The commissioners met at Napoleon on May 1, 1839, and the following day selected a site two miles north of Clark’s property for the new capital. That site became Iowa City.
Iowa City also replaced Napoleon as the county seat. Napoleon faded, and eventually disappeared, as Iowa City grew. The log courthouse building burned down in the 1870s, and was never replaced.