LENDING A HELPING HAND

GREENFIELD — Indiana Automotive Fasteners (IAF) donated $50,000 to the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association and Indiana Bandits Baseball Club on Friday for a new sports park to be built on Franklin Road behind Greenfield Central Junior High School.

Franklin Sports Park, which will have 12 fields once completed, is scheduled to have five fields ready for play by the spring of next year. The donation from IAF was the largest corporate sponsorship to date, which guarantees the company a lifetime sponsorship on field No. 3.

According to the park committee, the complex will allow the youth in the community a place to play baseball and will serve as a family-friendly setting for a thriving recreational program.

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“Every five, 10 or 15 years in the past they (IAF) have donated something to the community,” Randall Shepard said, who serves on the Franklin Park Committee and also works at IAF. “We are doing it for the kids and the city.”

Once completed, the park will have fields available for ages 5 to 18. The first six fields, as well as fields nine and 11, will be used for ages 7 to 12. Fields seven and eight will be for ages 5 to 6 and the large fields, 10 and 12, will be for ages 13 to 18.

“The engineers estimate for the park was approximately $2 million, but we will likely get it built for under a million dollars with self-perform and in-kind donations,” Alex Stanley, chairman of the Franklin Park Committee, said.

The park, according to Stanley, will immediately impact between 600 to 700 kids and also should help boost the local economy with the amount of players, fans, coaches and athletes who participate in summer tournaments around the state and country.

“Our facilities now (at Riley Park) are decent but crowded,” GYBA President Mike Hubert said. “On a Saturday afternoon there are real parking problems. Unfortunately, beyond our control, it floods when the creek rises. It’s a huge mess.

“With more parking and more fields, we should be good for a long time.”

Also once completed, Franklin Sports Park will be the only facility of its kind east of Indianapolis to the Ohio state border, according to Stanley. Similar complexes have been growing in popularity, however, as parks have been built around Indianapolis in recent years.

“Others have done what we are doing with success,” Stanley said.

The park will be constructed under a five-year plan as grass has already been planted with utilities scheduled to go in later this month. In 2018, an additional five fields will be completed with a parking lot expansion.

The following year, the last two fields will be built and final construction on landscaping, as well as exiting routes from Riley Park, will be complete.

The GYBA and the Bandits are committed to build this complex as a team, providing opportunities for both recreational and travel baseball.

“We are legally bonded together and will share the fields,” added committee member Ron Roberts.

Enough funds have been raised for the first stage of construction, but to move forward, the committee is in need of more donations, especially ones like IAF’s.

Muegge Heating Plumbing and Electrical, Greenfield Dental Health, IMI and the Weil Family Foundation have also made significant donations for field sponsorship.

Sponsorship prices range anywhere between $500 and $100,000 and guarantees donors field recognition and a presence on the park’s website — for a period of time depending on the amount given.

Shrewsberry and Associates donated all of the engineering work for the park, which will be at the location for at least 50 years — based off current lease terms.

“We are at a point where we need additional funds to keep moving forward, and we would love to provide advertising and community recognition to local companies that want to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities” Stanley said.

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.