FIELDS OF DREAMS - Capital Campaign Planned To Help Fund Upgrades To Ballfields
As the Glenwood Baseball/Softball Club gears up for another season, more than just games are on the club’s schedule this spring and summer.
The club that has served Glenwood’s youth baseball and softball players for over a decade is gearing up for a capital campaign to upgrade its home at the Glenwood Community Recreational Complex along East Sharp Street. The club is diverse in what is offered; everything from the high-level travel teams that compete at that state and regional level down to the recreational league level with the Council Bluffs youth club and YMCA.
“Every kid in Glenwood can play regardless of their financial or physical means,” said Shawn Koehler, president of the GBSC board. “That’s an obligation for us. If a kid wants to play in a wheelchair, we’ll figure it out. We want every kid to experience baseball if they want to.”
The club is currently fundraising as they do most years, offering outfield banners to area businesses, services clubs and organizations. The GBSC is a tax-exempt non-profit, so all donations are tax deductible.
Support has been great, Koehler said. Whatever private funding they get, the club has typically managed to double that donation with grants – and volunteers.
“The more people we have involved, the more banners that go up, the more donors we have, it’s really big for grantors because they see the level of support in the community,” he said. “Our number of kids involved is outstanding. We’re the largest youth sports organization in Glenwood right now and we’re continuing to grow. It’s exciting.”
The GBSC has received large anonymous donations in the past and they’re hoping that continues into its next phase of revamping the facilities. The club organized into its current structure 12 years ago and while participation numbers have seen consistent growth, the fields have stayed mostly stagnant.
Since 2019, the club has invested over $45,000 and 2000 volunteer hours in renovating the fields, owned by the City of Glenwood. Along with these investments the club has applied thousands in scholarships and investments in game equipment and gear. All of it funded by banner advertisements, private donations, and grants.
Several financial partners have been critical for this success; The Southwest Iowa Foundation, Rotary Club, Boy Scouts of America, Glenwood Fraternal Order of Eagles, Kiwanis, Lions Club, and other private donors. The investment has had an impact, Koehler said.
In all, more 220 youth athletes take part in the GBSC. The cost to play ranges from $130 to $500 per player. None of those fees goes toward anything outside their cost to play for that season and no child will be turned down from playing.
But field capacity issues and the conditions at the complex are boiling up.
The complex opened with a single field hosting high school games in the 1960s. In the late 1970s’ three more fields were added. Since, the complex footprint and infrastructure has changed very little, Koehler said.
“There haven’t been a whole lot of additions,” he said. “You go to other towns, and you see the quad-plex (fields) that were built. We have hopes and dreams to do something like that here but right now, we want to make sure we maintain what we have first.”
The club has a list of facilities improvements it hopes to make with private donations, beginning with new scoreboards for fields 3 and 4. The $20,000 funding for that project has already been secured and work is set to begin later this summer.
A plan to flip field 5 from having its backstop, dugouts and bleachers on the south side to the north, near fields 3 and 4 and the nearly completed new restroom and concession stand building is high among the club’s priorities. The restroom/concession stand project is being paid for by the City of Glenwood. The work on field 5 is estimated to cost $100,000.
Koehler said he has board members itching to get to work on field 5 now.
“If we can get enough capital and the materials we need, once the season is over, we might start ripping that field out and flipping it,” Koehler said. “It all depends on how close we are to our capital target to get the materials we need.”
The complex is also in need of a major electrical overhaul estimated to cost more than $250,000. The current system is nearly 40 years old and dangerously out of date. Both fields 4 and 5 are without lights and one light pole on field 3 is not functioning.
Several of the fields also need dugout and bleacher upgrades along with the addition of concrete slabs to prevent spectator areas from turning into mud pits when it rains.
The club has also long desired to construct an indoor field house with a field turf surface to support baseball, soccer and even football off-season work, out of the elements.
“There would be batting cages and wide-open space,” he said. “We’re working hard to identify a place to do that.”
The club currently uses the Glenwood Wrestling Club building and it two batting cages, but space is limited there, Koehler said.
“It limits the number of kids and teams we can get in there,” he said. “Pretty much every minute is taken there in the wintertime, and we have more kids that was to access it and get better and we can’t service everybody right now. We’re hoping to expand on what we have now.”
Ideally, Koehler added, the club would secure an existing building, add turf and renovate for its needs.
There’s no denying the rich history at the current complex, Koehler said. Preserving as much of that history is as important as growing the future of the program.
“Baseball is an old game,” he said. “A lot of these parents played there and now their kids or grandkids play there. One of the things I love is the individual progression of a kid. These kids improve all season, and they remember that first hit or driving in that game-winning run. That stuff sticks with you forever.”