WASHOUGAL — George Schmid Memorial Park was packed Tuesday night with baseball, softball and T-ball teams and their families.
On this particularly cloudy evening, the teams weren’t only competing with one another, but battling against time before the natural light disappeared.
East County Little League and Washougal city officials are hoping things will change in the near future, after the city received $1.239 million in the state capital budget toward improving the Schmid ballfields.
“From day one, there has been a plan for a full baseball/softball sports complex there to include all the amenities you might imagine for a complex like that,” City Manager David Scott said. “Obviously, the fields are the centerpiece. Then we want improved parking, permanent restroom facilities, storage facilities and some accommodation for concessions.”
Plans for the next phase at the park include building a third field, a paved parking lot, stormwater treatment, water, sanitary and electrical services at the site, a concessions kiosk, permanent restroom facilities, lighting for all fields and ADA-accessible paths and seating.
The state appropriation gets the project partly there, and now the city and Little League are working to find the rest of the money for the estimated $2.3 million to $2.6 million project.
“I don’t know we can fund-raise $1.1 (million) to $1.4 million,” Scott said. “I don’t know if that’s reasonable. The (city) council is bullish for this project and wants to accomplish this project. We’re going to look at the project and see how we can deliver a project we can all be proud of in the most effective way. If there are things we can do to try to bring that estimate down, we’re going to explore that. We’ll look for additional funding, and maybe leveraging funding the city would provide in some way combined with fundraising, combining with other grants.”
The land was purchased by the Washougal School District in 2001 for expansion of school services. The district’s administrative offices are located near the ballfields. In 2006, the district and city partnered to build the first field. The following year, the city received a Youth Athletic Field grant from the Recreation and Conservation Office for the construction of the second field.
Scott said more construction can’t start until the other funding is secured, and estimated it could start next year. He said design will start later this summer once money from the state budget is available.
Mike Plinski, president of East County Little League, said building a third field and getting lighting at the league’s home park could help bring more games to Washougal.
“We can go from two games a night to having six games a night with a third field and lights,” he said. “You’re increasing it by 67 percent capacity just during the weeknights. On the weekends, we’re able to host tournaments, which is a big deal. We can have three games playing at once. We can host 10 to 12 teams in different divisions on a weekend, and each one can play a doubleheader. We can get up to 20 to 24 games in on a weekend if we stacked up the schedule properly.”
Without lights, running water and electricity, those things aren’t possible at the complex, Plinski said.
Jeff Daley, who coaches his son’s T-ball team and has an older son in the league, said the improvements would make games more exciting for kids, especially the younger ones. The T-ball teams currently play in a grassy area next to the two developed fields. That area is where the third field would be built.
“We got to play a few games on one of the actual fields this year, and the kids loved it,” Daley said. “They got to sit in the dugout and they were so excited.”
Daley thinks that excitement would also extend to the older kids.
“They love going to Camas to play under the lights,” he said. “If we could get them out there under the lights, the kids would feel like they’re big-time.”
Plinski said the improvements to the complex could be a huge asset for Washougal.
“It would create a nice family atmosphere at the park for the community to come together and have boys and girls playing on all three fields,” he said. “It would be a great gathering place to everyone to meet and share a love of baseball and softball.”