Capitol Park Little League says it's the bottom of the ninth and hundreds of kids are about to be left without a place to play.
For more than 50 years, northeast-side children have been playing baseball at a complex on land donated by the Capitol Aggregates Corporation.
League officials say that the use of the property has been a generous gift from the Zachry family. But officials now say that the company needs to expand and the league must find a new home.
“Zachry, myself, and our committee have spent close to three years researching land that would be a good fit for Capitol Park,” League President Rob Foster said.
Foster added that the non-profit has been unable to find a suitable parcel that meets their needs and their meager budget.
“We are non-profit. We are volunteers. Our sole income is from concessions, registration fees, field rental and an occasional sponsorship or donor,” Foster noted.
Foster said that the group serves about 500 families and there are teams for every age level, from 4-year-old T-ball players to 17-year-olds in senior leagues.
About one-third of the kids who play in the league come from families below the poverty line, according to Foster.
“We are the only little league in the city that is not on park, city park land,” Foster said, adding that there are 10 other groups in the city that benefit from such partnerships.
In addition to the pressure to relocate, Foster said that maintaining the aging infrastructure at Capitol Park is a burden that is almost overwhelming.
Touring the facility, Foster pointed out dangerous leaning power poles and missing electrical components, rotting bleachers and peeling paint.
Foster said that because of a lack of funding, bathroom facilities and one of the concession stands sat idle for months due to plumbing problems.
One field can be used only during daylight hours because there has been no money to repair a light pole that rotted and fell to the ground some time ago.
Foster said that he is committed to finding a solution because he feels an emotional attachment to the park where he has watched his children grow up.
“One of my kids just finished in the oldest division in Bangor Maine at the Little League World Series. I'm very passionate about the park, the kids and everybody that's been involved,” Foster said.
While support from the Zachry organization has been a big blessing for a long period of time, Foster says it would be helpful if other area businesses would provide additional support.
“I don't want to see it go away,” Foster said. “I want to find a new home that will take them another 50 years. Our main focus is to find a safe place for our kids to play ball. Help us. Help us find a home for these kids.”
The group has been involved in an effort to build a new facility in nearby McAllister Park, but the idea has been met with tremendous resistance.
Park users who value the greenspace that would be lost launched a petition drive at www.change.org and, in two days, the group was able to gather more than 4,000 signatures from those opposed to the plan.
The league planned to request $2 million in city bond money as part of an $8 million capital campaign to build a new home in McAllister Park.
The league is hosting a rally at Capitol Park Tuesday at 6 p.m. and they invite anyone who wants to learn more about this important project to join them. Here is a link to the website.
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