East Syracuse For years, children and teenagers of the Syracuse Challenger baseball league have had to play their games in the heat of the summer after the other Central New York teams have finished their seasons. After the groundbreaking for the Challenger Field of Dreams on May 11, the kids are one step closer to having a stadium of their own. Dewitt residents, elected officials and members of the Central New York baseball community gathered at the Carrier Wills Recreation Center in East Syracuse to celebrate the beginning of construction for the Challenger Field of Dreams.
The facility will provide both a permanent home to the Challenger Baseball League and an all-inclusive playground for the Central New York community. The Challenger league consists of children ages 5 to 21 with various special needs, physical handicaps and developmental delays.
The complex is set to have three phases and is expected to be complete by the fall of 2015. Residents can expect nine fields in total, including space for baseball, softball, football, soccer and lacrosse fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, a picnic pavilion and a walking trail.
Dewitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko said the project is unique in that it will provide a space for both the special needs community and the Syracuse communities to play together.
“Over the last few years, it’s been almost like a ‘separate but equal’ mentality,” he said. “Across the country, you’ll see facilities designed for the special needs community, but rarely are those facilities accommodating for the community at large. In this case, we’re going to mix the two communities.”
Michalenko, who grew up just two blocks away from the complex’s Roby Avenue location, said the project will also boost the area’s economy. The Syracuse Challenger baseball league, which is the largest league in the country with 220 players, hopes to one day host Challenger baseball tournaments for leagues all across New York State and the Northeast.
The groundbreaking ceremony also served as a kickoff for a $9 million fundraising campaign to raise money to complete the construction of the later phases of the facility. For more information about the project and how to donate, visit friendsofdewittparks.org.