In Making his plea Monday night, Mike Minton of the Great Bend Bombers youth baseball organization, wanted the Great Bend City Council to step up to the plate for youth baseball and softball teams in the community.
He urged the city to install artificial turf at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The goal would be to make the city more competitive in attracting tournaments to town, while providing safer fields that are less susceptible to having games rained out.
“I’m here to talk about progress,” Minton said. “If you are not growing, you’re dying.”
However, city officials said they would have to study the issue and get commitments from the Great Bend Recreation Commission and USD 428. City Administrator Kendal Francis has a meeting planned Aug. 29 with officials from both entities.
“There’s a whole lot more to go,” Councilman Cory Urban said. “But the wheels are turning one way or another.”
“There’s got to be some commitments in writing before we move forward,” Mayor Joe Andrasek said. He’s supportive of improvements, adding there are some other projects also needed at the complex and there must be some more discussion on where to go next.
Making the case
Minton, who started as a teacher and coach in Great Bend 25 years ago, said much has been done to improve Great Bend. But more needs to be done to keep moving forward and attract people to come to the community.
“I want to continue to see the city of Great Bend grow,” said Minton, whose wife coaches softball at Great Bend High School and whose kids are active in sports as well. “I am here tonight to ask the City Council to approve funding for turf at the complex.”
Minton was joined by young ball players and other coaches who filled the council chambers. All were present to back his proposal.
“This will allow us something to bring outsiders to Great Bend potentially more than a dozen times per year,” he said. “Something as simple as turf on a few fields that make us different from other communities can keep people wanting to come back to our city.”
He said he wants these visitors to spend their money in local motels, restaurants and gas stations. This impact can be huge, since these teams travel with many family members in tow.
It’s not just the Bombers, he said. The Quicksilver youth softball team, along with the American Legion baseball teams and the Rec Commission, are in the same boat.
“We can build something here,” he said. “I want to see a community that is growing and is known for its summertime fun and activities while bringing in the outside dollars.”
With 40 or more teams typically taking part in a tournament, plus coaches and fans, he estimated conservatively 15,000 visitors from April through July. The economic impact could easily exceed $500,000.
“Will it happen the first year?” he said. “No, it won’t happen the first year.”
But,in a year or two, he knows it will become a big deal.
Councilwoman Jolene Biggs seconded the need for economic development. With it becoming increasingly challenging to bring new businesses to town, Great Bend must do what it can to generate business traffic.
But, it’s about more than money, Minton said.
Turf is important because people want to come and play on the best, he said. They want to know there will be limited games canceled due to rain.
This applies not only to youth programs, he said. State and regional high school and colleges utilize the complex as well, programs that may move to other venues that have turfed fields.
“We’re going to lose those if we don’t do something different,” he said. “They will go someplace else.”
Turf is also safer for players, limiting ball hops. There is also less maintenance required.
A great facility
“Our Sports Complex is fantastic,” Minton said. He praised city officials for the vision in creating it, and for their service to the community.
“However, the unfortunate thing is that if we want to keep people coming, we’ve got to do it,” he said of the turf. “We are giving ourselves a chance to keep all the organizations excited about coming here.”
Minton, who is the former GBHS softball coach, said his wife Carrie now coaches the team. High school kids also expect and deserve more.
“We need to provide them the best facilities possible,” he said. “Let’s take the next step.
“I challenge each of you to go out and take a tour of all of our ball fields,” he said. The city has a lot of fields and they all deserve to be maintained.
Veterans Memorial Park and Harms Field were all nice at one time. Now, he said that is not the case.
“We haven’t taken care of what we have and I have a concern about the complex,” Minton said. “We need to take care of these facilities for years and years to come.”
With all the youth baseball and softball teams that call Great Bend home, he said they hope for and expect some support from civic leaders.
“We do have a lot of support on this,” Minton said.
Turf can last 10-15 years, but the actual lifespan is hard to determine and depends of use, Minton said. Discussion Monday never covered what turfing the fields would cost.
The complex was initially designed for grass fields. It would have to be redesigned for turf, which could be used on just the infield, infield and outfield, on the pitchers mound or other options.
Turf is not maintenance-free, but can be easily patched if necessary.
“It’s very advantageous for the high school programs,” said Randy Beck, GBHS baseball coach.
Great Bend and Liberal are the only two schools of the five in the Western Athletic Conference that don’t have turfed fields, since Hays, Garden City and Dodge City do. Beck said GBHS players are put at a “competitive disadvantage” when it comes to practicing on an artificial surface.
I’m here to talk about progress. If you are not growing, you’re dying.Mike Minton, president of the Great Bend Bombers youth baseball organization