By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
It was a partnership between the City of Belton and the Belton Youth Baseball Association, with help from a grant from the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, which culminated into field to beginning of baseball dreams for the youth of Belton.
The Heritage Park Baseball Complex 5th Field Dedication ceremony took place in the Monday afternoon sunshine in front of 250 people, as well as Belton Mayor Marion Grayson, Belton City Council members Craig Pearson and Jerri Gauntt, Belton City Manager Sam Listi, City of Belton Public Works Director/City Engineer Mike Huber, Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis, City of Belton’s Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, and VIP’s, such as Belton Athletic Director Bob Shipley.
Mayor Grayson greeted the attendees to open the ceremony.
“This is a great ball field, in a great park, in a great city and that makes it a home run,” Grayson said.
Following First United Methodist Church Pastor Darren Walker’s invocation, Listi addressed the group and cited key contributors to the building of the field.
“The baseball field before you today is a unique partnership between the city and BYBA,” Listi said. “A lot of folks had a part in the development of this field. BYBA had a major part, with their association with the Texas Rangers, the City of Belton and its citizens, Belton’s Public Works Department, our 2013 Capital Improvement Planning Committee, Belton Parks Board and City Council.”
You can’t just hammer in stakes and build a baseball field overnight. The field was two-and-a-half years in the making.
“In February 2013, the city was in the middle of developing a capital improvement plan and a list of priorities for projects,” Listi explained. “(BYBA Secretary/Treasurer/Grants Coordinator) Marc Shepard and the Belton Youth Baseball Association came to us with a proposal to add a fifth field to meet the growing need experienced by their organization. BYBA pledged to partner with the city and fund one-half of the $150,000 cost for a fifth baseball field at Heritage Park. That commitment of $75,000 for the additional field was a compelling offer that had the potential to double our local funding and influence the priority of pending park needs. The CIP committee and the City Council endorsed the funding plan and the project was soon underway.”
Of the $75,000 raised by BYBA, $5,000 came from a grant made by the Texas Rangers Foundation in Spring 2014.
The project, developed by Huber, included field, new bleachers, light standards, a scoreboard, redirection of the walking trail and fire hydrants. The complete cost of the project was $157,700.00.
Shepard, the BYBA board and BYBA members put in countless hours at Heritage Park and were an integral part of the project.
“It was an outstanding partnership between BYBA and the city,” Shepard said. “What this field means to us is that Belton has seen tremendous growth over the recent years and it’s going to let our kids play baseball at more friendly hours. Instead of having young kids out here at nine or 10 at night, we can schedule for more appropriate times. If we get rained out, we can still reschedule at appropriate times.”
Huber’s group admitted that the fifth field was a tough project.
“This was a challenging project for my team,” Huber said. “We started with a budget of $150,000.00. That sounds like a lot of money and it is. But $150,000.00 doesn’t get you very far. If you look at our original cost estimates, we were wondering how we were going to build this thing. Our original cost estimates were at $180,000.00. So we all put our heads together and the creativity of our staff, we were able to come in just $7,000.00 over the budget. The four lights were $73,000.00, the fencing was $24,000.00…it adds up very quickly and the creativity is what my team is good at. This is for kids of Belton, for the future of Belton.”
The field had been beat up over the past couple of weeks by rain and was still soggy, but that wasn’t going to bog down the celebration of a field direly needed by BYBA and will be a key component for the organization. The field will get plenty of use this spring and summer by the BYBA Pre T-Ball, T-Ball and Machine Pitch leagues and will come into play this summer when the City of Belton and BYBA host the Texas Teenage Baseball 10U Open Base State Tournament in July.