$100,000 For Ball Fields
Britton has received up to a $100,000 grant to help make improvements at the baseball/softball complex on the south edge of town.
Grant money was awarded from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The federal assistance program provides up to 50 percent reimbursement for outdoor recreation projects. If the city spent $200,000 on the project, it would be reimbursed $100,000.
Funds come from the National Park Service and are administered in South Dakota by the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Britton was one of nine communities receiving funding. City councilman Austin Sasker worked with NECOG to submit the grant application.
“I serve on the city Parks & Rec Board and worked with the Britton Youth Baseball & Softball program leaders on what they envisioned for the complex,” said Sasker. “We need to make some changes with the number of kids now going through the baseball/softball program.”
The city program has seen tremendous growth in recent years.
“We have gone from less than 50 kids six years ago to 150 last summer,” said Kelsi Heer of the Britton Youth Baseball & Softball Program. “Six years ago we only had a T-ball team and a U8 baseball program. This coming summer we will probably have a U12 baseball team, two U10 teams, three U8 teams, and T-ball. We will also likely have U14, U12, U10, and U8 girls softball.”
Heer said one of the things that has spurred the growth was the creation of the Northeast South Dakota Hardball League for baseball with Webster, Milbank, Sisseton, and Britton.
“The focus of the league is learning, and all games are played during the week and at a site no further than an hour away for any team,” said Heer. “Everybody’s excuse for not playing in prior years was that they wanted to go to the lake on the weekend, so we’re playing during the week. And once the boys started playing again, their sisters wanted to play, too.”
The rapid growth is a nice problem to have but has created scheduling issues. There is a large field in the complex not suitable for youth teams, and two other fields for youth play. Heer said the top priority with the funding is to build a third field.
“With so many teams it’s really become hard to schedule games and I had even talked to Langford about using their field during the summer,” said Heer. “We just can’t get everything in on two fields. And with three fields our hope is to ultimately have tournaments here again.”
Heer said the land east of the north field is earmarked for recreational use. Plans are to make that into the third youth field.
Sasker said there will be several phases to the ballpark improvement project.
“We would first like to add another field starting this summer, and then look at rotating the southwest field so that home plate would be by the concession stand area. Right now fans and batters are looking right into the sun during the evening games.”
Other items on the to-do list are updating and enclosing dugouts, replacing old scoreboards, and establishing a playground/ park area to keep younger kids entertained. Drain tile and an improved grandstand are also needed on the big field.
“What kind of started the process was pushing to have some things done to the big field so when we have older groups ready to play they will have a nice field to play on,” concluded Heer. “We’re excited for the future.”
“We have gone from less than 50 kids six years ago to 150 last summer....We’re excited for the future.”