Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner news
Edgerton city staff presented their research to the council regarding baseball field rentals and the possibility of hosting baseball tournaments at the Feb. 27 council meeting.
City staff’s cost estimates for field improvements ranged from $94,925 per field for the 2020 season to $524,925 through $674,925 per field in future seasons. Additional field improvements were estimated at $340,000 for perimeter fencing, turf maintenance and an irrigation system.
They gave several options for city council to consider at Martin Creek Park for the 2020 season and for future season expenses to come from the 2022 Annual Budget and 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Program.
Staff said practice fields would have to be enhanced for field usage to make tournaments feasible.
Wellsville, Baldwin, Edgerton and DeSoto are considered the Big 4, staff said. Most cities provide a shirt and hat. Edgerton kids participate in the Gardner leagues.
Staff said additional turf improvements and more in-depth maintenance with increased amenities are needed.
Martin Creek Park has two fields but needs four to be considered for tournaments, staff said. The park could be considered for metro tournaments as overflow if the park had concessions and restrooms. The city is capable of hosting adult tournaments because portable restrooms are already in place.
Beth Linn, city administrator, said there were many challenges. “The opportunity to generate revenue varies widely,” she said. “But insurance doesn’t cover league accidents.”
Linn said additional staff would also be needed.
Joshua Beem, council member, said he coaches his son’s team in Gardner, and he wasn’t sure if starting a tournament this year could be done.
“If we can get the numbers up,” he said. “Would this be something Gardner could help with.”
Staff said they have an option to start an Edgerton team.
Don Roberts, mayor, said he liked having different options but they needed to think long-term on how they want to spend the money. He asked if there was enough interest for a youth recreation league and tournament play.
“Where do we want to spend the money, and are we willing to spend to get there,” he said.
Josh Lewis council member, said he would like to see Edgerton kids join locally. “A youth league would be fantastic,” he said. “Most people go to other towns to play.”
Lewis said they can’t jump off the deep end, but can start somewhere.
Roberts said he wanted to know if it was practical to start a team now.
Lewis and Beem said it would be hard to fill teams this late. Lewis said he suggests preparing for another season.
Roberts said concessions, new lighting and concessions were all big costs.
Clay Longanecker, council member, said he agreed with Lewis. “Our kids deserve to have the same things other kids in other towns have,” he said.
Council members discussed future city growth’s affect on the need for a team.
Lewis said he wanted to know why local teams would be charged for field use.
Roberts said the field use fees would be $5 to $10 for field maintenance.
“What point do we recoup for non-Edgerton based teams,” he said.
Lewis said most of the teams aren’t all 60 percent Edgerton members.
Longanecker said he agreed with Lewis about not making teams pay.
“I don’t want kids who can’t afford to play not be able to play baseball,” he said. “I don’t want to stand in the way.”
Beem asked about a flat rate practice fee and total package for the next year’s season.
Lewis said it was the city’s best interest to to keep the field fees as is for this year and to plan for next year. “We can generate future revenue through conversations,” he said.
Lewis said the Kansas City area hosts the largest youth tournament in the country.
Ron Conus, council members, said once the fields are updated maybe there would be more of a cost benefit to hosting tournaments. “I don’t know if our population justifies the cost,” he said. Conus said he would like to look into a possible slow pitch softball league for the intermodal companies.
Linn said the amenities of the field would drive the interest of the field usage.
Roberts said for the 2020 year if a team is 50 percent Edgerton residents the field fee would be free, but otherwise the city would charge $10 an hour.
Beem said he didn’t know how many people would keep practicing if they were used to the fields being available for free.
Roberts said he agreed there was a need for tournament play in Edgerton, and the population drives the need, but the city has to have the resources and be willing to spend the money.