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Council takes swing at pro baseball
Authorized was a lease for Al Burns Field and a cereal-malt beverage license
new deh great benders pro baseball Al Burns Field
Shown is Al Burns Field in Great Bend. It will be the home of the Great Benders, a Pecos League professional baseball team. - photo by Tribune file photo

 In other business Monday night, the Great Bend City Council:

• Was notified of the termination of Transportation Security Administration Lease at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The U.S. General Services Administration sent a letter to the city terminating the lease for office space at the airport industrial area for TSA personnel, City Administrator Howard Partington said.

The TSA hasn’t screened passengers at Great Bend for several months, so this came as no surprise, Partington said. However, it does mean the loss of a $3,000-per-month lease payment.

• Authorized Mayor Mike Allison to sign the agreement with Kansas Gas Service for the provision of natural gas distribution lines in Phase I of the Amber Meadows RHID Subdivision and to extend the line to a point to the east where existing lines terminate.

• Authorized the establishment of barricades on Eighth Street from Grant Street west to the west property line of the Reserves at Trail Ridge property. Partington said this is to prevent motorists from using the worn path behind the apartments as a shortcut from Wal-Mart to Dillons.

• Discussed lights at Stone Lake. A memo and supporting documents from city engineering technician Karl Otter regarding an inquiry from Mark Kurcher of Wheatland Electric as how to proceed with replacement of lighting fixtures at Stone Lake were addressed. The lights south of Stone Lake are shot out whenever they are replaced and Kurcher wanted to bring this to the city’s attention and see how to proceed, Partington said.

City officials are going to look into heavier-duty lights and the possibility of installing surveillance cameras.

• Adopted a resolution of support for housing tax credits for the next phase (48 units) of the Reserves at Trail Ridge project. The council approved a letter of support for the credits at its Jan. 4 meeting.

• Adopted a resolution in support of tax credits for  Great Bend High Rise upgrades. The Great Bend Housing Authority is the one that will be applying for the tax credits make improvements to the 44-year-old building.

• Discussed a resolution supporting tax credits for Housing Opportunities Inc.’s senior housing project. Action will be taken at the Feb. 1 meeting.

• Heard a report on the Oxford House from Jason Cavender. This is a facility for men recovering from chemical dependency.

• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She discussed the Icy Sidewalk Sale successes, the Miss Barton County and Miss Golden Belt Pageant and the upcoming June Jaunt, which is in its fifth year.

• Approved an abatement at 1300 Patton Rd., for accumulation of refuse, owned by Treva Ann Paden.

 It was a swing and hit for Pecos League baseball Monday night as the City Council backed the establishment of professional team in Great Bend.

The team name will be the Great Benders and it will play ball at Al Burns Field located in Veterans Memorial Park. The team colors would be purple and orange.

This was made possible after the council approved a facility-use agreement with the league allowing it to use the ball diamond for its 2016 season at a cost of $1,500. Also approved was a cereal-malt beverage ordinance that would allow the sale and consumption of beer in the stadium during games.

Also under the contract, the city will take care of the facilities, but the team will be responsible for preparing the field for each game, said City Attorney Bob Suelter. 

The Great Benders will join the Garden City Wind and Topeka Train Robbers as the only Pecos League squads in Kansas. There are 10 teams in all, with the remainder located in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The Wind was formed in 2015, but the Train Robbers and the Great Benders are both new this year. The Alpine, Texas, Cowboys is the oldest team, dating back to 2010.

The regular season runs from May through the end of June. That is a 70-game season, of which 31 would be home stands, league Commissioner Andrew Dunn told the council.

Over the past few years, city staff has been approached by people wanting to bring professional baseball to Great Bend, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. Each time, city and Great Bend Recreation Commission staffs have worked with the organizers to see if it could become a reality. 

Each time there has been some issues that just could not be resolved, Suelter said.

Most recently, on July 28, 2015, Andrew Dunn met with city and recreation commission officials to see if a team could play in Great Bend. Nothing happened after that meeting until mid-December when Dunn contacted the Rec Commission and waned to place a team in Great Bend. 

Since that time, the city and the rec commission have been working on the details. 

This included the agreement between Dunn’s Pecos League along with the cereal-malt beverage ordinance. “It is our understanding that the sale of cereal malt beverages would be a prerequisite to having the ball team locate in Great Bend,” Suelter said.

The players would be rookie-level free agents. They do get paid and will be living with host families in Great Bend. 

“They just want to get some exposure in hopes of making it to the big leagues,” Suelter said.

Dunn expects attendance at the games to vary. He suggested anywhere from 70 to 700.

“If its anything like Garden City, we’ll be happy,” he said. Dunn cited Garden City as a success story.

Al Burns Field should be adequate for now, he said. Down the road, he hopes the team’s success will lead to improvements to the ballpark.

The lease is only for one season. Dunn said they would look at extending that depending on the level of local support.

Care for the field falls to the Recreation Commission. Director Diann Henderson said everyone involved with this project has worked hard to make it happen.

“We support it,” she said.

However, all was not rosy and some city officials and some on the council felt Dunn circumvented the city by contacted the media first. This allowed the story to come out before council members knew about it.

“I don’t believe that’s a correct way to handle it,” Councilwoman Allene Owen said.

Dunn acknowledged this, but stressed the story in the Great Bend Tribune said it was a proposed team and that he had been in touch with the paper about amending his statement.

The Pecos League is an independent professional baseball league which operates in cities in desert mountain regions throughout New Mexico, southern Arizona, Kansas, west Texas and southern Colorado. Pecos teams play in cities that do not have major or minor league baseball teams and is not affiliated with either.

The Pecos League covers three time zones, five states and has two divisions.