Abilene needs new or up-dated ball fields and facilities

Ever since Ray Kinsella heard the whispered voice say ‘Build it and they will come’ in the movie Field of Dreams, baseball and softball enthusiasts have been pondering the dream of new playing facilities.

Abilene fans are no different.

For years, parents have told stories of driving teams to towns all across the state for weekend tournaments. They seem to mention they are gone almost every weekend from early May until mid July traveling 1,000s of miles busing kids to either a baseball or softball tournament.

Funny thing – they never mentioned staying at home and playing in a tournament.

Why is this? In a time when the City of Abilene and the County of Dickinson County are scratching their heads and wringing their hands trying to figure out an economic developmental solution – why not look no further than why families are traveling away from Abilene so often in the summer months?

Maybe a solution could be that if Abilene had suitable facilities and a person willing to host the tournaments, it could be an easy monitorial impetus the city needs for the foreseeable future. Other cities and towns of Abilene’s size have successfully proven it can be done.

Pratt needed new summer playing fields and, with the cooperation between the City of Pratt and the local school district, they were able to develop a plan that resulted in a beautiful facility that currently has two regulation size baseball fields and two high school size softball diamonds.

Not only is Pratt able to have great facilities for Greenback sports teams, the city has access to the four diamonds to be able to host tournaments in either sport from mid spring to the middle of July. The tournament director has lined up moneymaking events for each of the 10 to 15 weekends of the summer activities schedule.

Pratt officials told the Reflector-Chronicle that their tournaments are drawing 40 to 60 teams per weekend and have for some time.

The result of this is entry fees paid by the teams to come to Pratt and those people traveling spend money in the stores, restaurants and gas stations and yes, even motels. In fact it was said that four new multi-level hotels/motels were constructed near the sports complex primarily because of the need created by the traffic to Pratt.

Right now Abilene is sending Abilene Baseball Club teams all over north central Kansas for tournament weekends. Those travelers have to eat, refill their gas tanks and sometimes, based on the distance, sleep over in motel rooms.

Could Abilene host multi-weekend tournaments? With the present facilities the answer is probably no, specifically in older youth baseball because of only having one diamond.

Abilene could definitely be in the minds of travelers if it had two decent baseball fields and a complex that had two high school size softball diamonds. With the facility to play on, they must have professional lighting to not only light the field well, but for safety reasons too. Someone is going to get hurt at Ted Power if the lighting isn’t fixed.

Fans, that’s the mothers, dads, grandparents, siblings and ball fans of all ages, want to go enjoy the sports where maybe there is shade to cover some seating, concession areas and probably most importantly – restroom facilities that are big enough for the crowds gathered and in working condition.

How about a PA system that works on a nightly basis where mom and dad can hear their child’s name mentioned on the loud speaker? Music?

Back to the original question – will they come if Abilene builds it? There is no guarantee but there is a guarantee of nobody coming if nothing is done and the status quo remains.

Think of the possibilities. Think of the possible tax money infused into the area. Think of the dreams enhanced by the players having the opportunity to play the sport Ike loved best.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

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