Jan 15, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
A group of community members plans to fix up and improve the baseball diamonds in Austin Park this year.
With the support of the community, Lakeshore Baseball and Softball plans to construct concrete dugouts at Sims Field and do landscaping work to all three ball-fields in the park used by the youth program. Rob and Scilla Gadjo have taken the lead in organizing the project and raising money to make sure it can happen.
While watching his son play baseball in Austin Park last year, Rob noticed that the fields were typically in rough shape, to the point that if negatively affected the games.
“I was sitting there watching my kid’s baseball games and something would come up every game about how the fields needed work,” he said.
Due to improper drainage there have often been pools of water on the field and the grass and dirt in the infield have been wet and muddy. The fields also have permanent bases in place with 60 feet between each one. This is the standard distance for little league baseball and softball, but during the summer the park hosts Babe Ruth League Cal Ripken division games that use 70-foot diamonds. For those games, the players would have to run over, or around, the permanent bases at first and third base, to get to the temporary bases 10 feet further down the baseline. Sims field, the one closest to the Sims pavilion, has been out of use for a couple years forcing the Lakeshore games onto the other two fields.
The proposal calls for removable bases to be installed at Sims and North fields, so that the baselines can be adjusted to fit the needs of the teams. They will also refurbish the fields so they drain properly and will build concrete dugouts to provide shelter form the elements at Sims field.
The project will be expensive, so Lakeshore reached out to community organizations and are raising funds through an engraved brick-selling campaign.
Though they won’t know the total cost of the project until they decide on a contractor, the fundraising goal for the engraved bricks is $20,000 generated from selling about 200 bricks, the Gadjos said.
The town, village and the Parks and Recreation Council of Skaneateles (PARCS) have all agreed to give $10,000 each to the project, on the condition that Lakeshore is able to raise the funds to round out the costs for construction.
Lakeshore will contribute a couple thousand dollars from its general fund and an anonymous private donor has agreed to give $5,000 to the project.
Local architect Bob Eggleston has also donated his services to the project including drawing up plans and presenting them to the village planning board at Nov. 7 meeting.
The donations from the village and PARCS will come from the Duke Schneider fund. Schneider, a long-time Skaneateles resident, left $450,000 in his will to be given to the village, school district and PARCS with the instruction that it be used solely for improving and repairing the parks and recreation facilities in Skaneateles. So far, the village has only used $10,000 of that money, to help fund the construction of the Cameron Kenan memorial playground in Austin Park.
The engraved bricks come in two sizes, costing $125 and $200. They will be made a part of the rear wall of the dugouts.
Assuming the money is in place, contractors will come in to do the work this spring as soon as the ground is thawed and dry. The work will be done on one diamond at a time so as to not affect baseball and softball games, Rob said.
Having three diamonds, as opposed to two, available for Lakeshore games will create less wear and allow more flexibility in scheduling. Plus they hope having nicer facilities will help to encourage more children to sign up and play, the Gadjos said.
Though it now has the support of local government officials, the project has not been without a few bumps in the road.
Due to turnover on the board, Lakeshore has had its 501(c)(3) status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service for not filing the proper paperwork. Without that designation, private donations to non-profit organizations are not tax-deductible.
Lakeshore has already filed the proper forms to have its tax status restored and, assuming it goes through, it will be restored retroactive to the date of the application, Lakeshore’s treasurer Guy Ruffo said. This means that while they are not advertising themselves as a 501(c)(3) organization at the moment, private donations made now, will likely qualify as tax deductable later.
The project has also caused local officials to return to an old issue the park has faced: insufficient drainage. According to the minutes of the Nov. 7 village planning board meeting, Eggleston and the board discussed and dismissed concerns about the project negatively effecting drainage in the park.
The work on the diamonds will include slight grading to drain water away from the playing area, but the town and village boards have talked about a project to fix drainage that would be wider in scope. This idea was most recently explored in 2002, but to fix the problem for good would require extensive drain tile to be installed at a large cost to the community.
The Gadjos said they hope to have reached their goal for the brick selling by the end of March. Though it is being called a “Wall of Fame,” anyone who wants to support the community and recreation programs can buy a brick or just make a donation, they said.
For more information on the brick selling campaign visit brickmarkers.com/donors/skanbb.html.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.