Rifle `Field of Dreams’ runs up against hard reality
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE – In January 2000, a group of self-described “baseball moms” got together to build a regulation-size baseball field in Rifle, complete with lights, bleachers and a real pitcher’s mound.
More than three years later, though, the moms are ready to give up their “Field of Dreams” and instead help improve Cooper Field, Rifle’s one, true baseball field.
The moms, Leslie Krick, Debbie Pace and Dede Snead, all have baseball-playing sons.
“We got involved in this project because of them,” said Pace.
But the women learned that planning to build a baseball diamond in Rifle involves a lot more red tape than it did in the 1989 Academy Award-winning film, “Field of Dreams,” where one man with a vision carved a baseball field out of his own cornfield.
“We’ve been to so many City Council meetings,” said Pace, “and met with so many people on this. We hired a planner to design the field, and we’ve moved it and reconfigured it more than once.”
With constant hurdles to clear, the group is shifting its focus, opting to abandon its dreams for a baseball field, and instead working towards funding lights and bleachers for Cooper Field.
“Not having lights on the existing field really limits our play,” said Krick. “Our kids can’t play after dark, which means we can’t schedule double headers in Rifle. We’ll have that option with the lights.”
With their new goal, the moms are working to do something positive for baseball in Rifle – at a much lower cost.
Pace said the planner they hired estimated their budget at right around $450,000 for a regulation ball field. The lighting budget, in contrast, is around $150,000.
The moms already have a small stash of money they made from T-shirt and ball cap sales, raffles, special events and concessions (“We sold thousands of hot dogs!” said Krick, smiling). They plan to use that money this fall to hire a grant writer who can help them secure grants to pay for the lights and to pay for stadium seating.
“Right now, there’s $7,361 in the project’s savings account,” said Pace of the seed money the group raised to build the diamond.
And right off the bat, so to speak, Krick said the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club Foundation has expressed interest, as has a foundation called Baseball Tomorrow.
Part of the reason the moms couldn’t get their baseball diamond to fly was that they never had a firm commitment about where the field would be located.
Snead, a second-grade teacher at Wamsley Elementary, said the group thought the most natural place for the field was just east of Wamsley and north of the Deerfield Park housing development, where the city has built four softball fields and is planning to build two more.
She said she understood that the original plans for the Deerfield Park fields submitted to the city included a baseball field.
“But we’ve seen a recent plan for the area, and CDOT has a bike bath going right through the baseball field,” Snead said. “It seems like the city has a certain vision, and it doesn’t include a baseball field.”
Pace said when the group started hitting snags with putting the field near Deerfield Park, it began asking private landowners for help.
“Ideally, it takes about 10 acres to build a regulation field, with parking and all,” Pace said. “We presented the idea to some of Rifle’s largest landowners, but no one was interested in donating land.”
Not having a physical address for the field project was problematic for the group.
“Foundations don’t want to give you money if there’s no physical site,” Pace said.
Field of lights and bleachers
Now that the group members have decided to focus their energy on improving Cooper Field, they’re breathing easier.
“When we first started this project, our boys were all going to school in Rifle,” Pace said. “Now, most of them are in college!”
Pace said Cooper Field does have some drawbacks.
“Besides having no lights, Cooper has no restrooms and no permanent seating,” said Pace. “It’s limited in its use because during events at the fairgrounds, it’s closed because of parking congestion.
“And because it’s a short field and it’s right on Railroad, there have been complaints about balls hitting houses and going into the street,” Pace said. “Plus there are discussions about moving the whole fairground complex at some point, so we don’t know how long the field will be in use.”
Still, even though it’s not what they first envisioned, the group is ready to invest in Cooper Field.
“You know, I just think how sad for our community that we couldn’t all work together to create something for our kids,” said Krick of the new baseball field that’s not-to-be. “But we’re ready to shift our focus. We’re ready to change gears.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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