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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Clipped before takeoff?

  • Sitting on a beat-up, paint-chipped bench earlier this June, April Norbert's voice took on a new sense of conviction as she filled out her team's lineup card.
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  • Sitting on a beat-up, paint-chipped bench earlier this June, April Norbert's voice took on a new sense of conviction as she filled out her team's lineup card.
    "Years ago when I started playing at 16, we had three full leagues," the longtime Leavenworth resident and softball enthusiast said. "Now we are down to one and the men only have two. There are a lot reasons for that and the facilities certainly are a major one."
    Planted inside one of the uncovered, dusty dugouts at Hawthorn Park, Norbert continued.
    "The better fields, the more teams that will come and the more money that will come into the city. So for me, I absolutely would support a new field."
    Whether that support – and other's like it – will matter much, only time will tell. In just over three weeks, the Leavenworth City Commission will hold a long-awaited vote on whether or not a new ball park will be built at 21st Street and Choctaw.
    The proposed field, which has been named Eagles Ball Fields, has been in the works for some time now. Back on Nov. 27, 2012, the city commission approved the shift of funds from the renovation of Cody Park, which had been granted through the 2013-2017 Capital Improvements Program, to the design and construction of the new field.
    An allocation of $970,000 was tabbed for the project, according to the commission's meeting agenda archives. With the development, the city would be able to boast an ASA-approved men's softball field that would allow for official tournaments to be held, as well as produce the same effect for the women's league.
    Currently, both the softball fields at Cody and Hawthorne fall below ASA standards to host official men's softball tournaments. Hawthorne, which is where the women presently play at, is also too small for ASA softball competitions. If Eagles Ball Fields were completed, the women would then play at Cody, thus meeting the ASA requirements.
    Also stated in the agenda was that on March 12, 2013, the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation staff brought forth an agreement to the commission to hire professional services for the Eagles Ball Fields design and construction.
    However, the commission hesitated signing the contract, seeking further information on the project's design and current field availability. Following a study session on April 16, the Parks and Rec department again recommended proceeding with the pact.
    But that has yet to happen, with the originally-planned May vote being pushed back to July 9 so that all five city commissioners can participate. Thus, the future of the Eagles Ball Fields sits in jeopardy.
    So, why the debate? Well, as with most major projects, money is the issue. While some commissioners have reportedly offered support for the project, at least a couple of other commissioners have stated their worry for spending nearly 1 million dollars on a softball field when, in their opinions, other city aspects are in greater need for improvement.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I'm not opposed to a new ballpark, but I am opposed to it at this time," Commissioner Larry Dedeke said. "There are so many other infrastructure needs that this city needs. We have sewer line problems, we definitely got street problems and it would be different if we had one or two little ball fields, but we just spent almost 2.5 million on Sportsfield."
    "My thought on this, and the percentages aren't correct, but I can't see giving everything to five percent of the population while 95 percent paying for it will never use it."
    Commissioner Mark Preisinger concurred, stating that there were more pressing needs at this time than building a softball field.
    "I do have some concerns with nearly a million dollars going towards a field that wouldn't be usable until 2015," Preisinger said. "I don't feel that the city right now has a capacity issue. We are not denying any adults, children or co-ed leagues the chance to play baseball, softball or T-ball."
    "I'm a big supporter of sports here in Leavenworth and I've shown that, but right now my opinion is that the better use of that money may be some place else like infrastructure."
    The commissioner even suggested raising the fences at Cody Park, which would increase the trigonometry of the field and perhaps make it ASA approved. Think of Boston's Fenway Park, Preisinger mentioned, and it's giant left field wall appropriately called the "Green Monster."
    But while the two men have voiced one opinion, there hasn't been a unified position on the subject by the rest of the city commission. That reasoning is why the commission decided to wait until early July to vote on the matter, so that all five could be present. Commissioner Davis Moulden has been absence due to health reasons.
    And out on the city's ball fields, a completely different tune can be heard.
    "If the money was set aside for these leagues, it needs to be used for these leagues," Leavenworth resident Chris Field said. "Men's, women's, co-ed, kids; new fields would help all of them no matter who got them. If the money was appropriated for the leagues, that is where it should go."
    "It would be progress," softball player Kelly Crowder said. "If the money was set aside for that reason, it shouldn't go somewhere else."
    The Leavenworth Parks and Rec department was asked if they wished to comment, which they declined.
    And so the fate of Eagles Ball Fields looms large as July 9 creeps forward. At least for one local citizen, it's an easy decision.
    "It would be very helpful," Norbert said. "We need it."

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