With a full count and little hope for keeping baseball tournaments in Neligh this summer, the City Council stepped up to the plate for the kids and hit a home run.
The Council voted 3-0 Tuesday night to give $15,300 to assist in the costs of putting aggregate on the north ball field in Riverside Park. Council member Ted Hughes said in his motion he was willing to give "a little more" than $15,300 "to see it gets done" to support the youth ball program and to keep the tournaments in Neligh. Council woman Stephanie Wanek was absent.
The decision came after a matching grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund fell through. Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek said Neligh's application was not considered a high priority by the organization.
But the City Council disagreed and decided to help fund the Riverside Ball Diamond Improvement Project, which will mostly cost more than $22,500 once labor is included. The Red Ball Diamond Aggregate (RBDA) will ensure the field is better weatherized to minimize the impact of rain. Specifications show the RBDA is 100 percent crushed red dolomitic limestone.
Diann Arehart told council members the ball program services more than 200 children each summer and brings thousands of people to Neligh. Those people, she said, spend money at local businesses, especially during the long days of the Quad County Tournament.
Arehart told council members that the Quad County baseball tournament for 12- and 14-and-under teams may not remain in Neligh unless the fields are weatherized and able to be used the entire time. Many of the teams suggested moving the tournament since other towns had weatherized fields. Having to postpone games to field conditions would be unlikely if the north field has the aggregate, which is already on the south field.
Arehart said the Neligh Youth Ball organization will assist with $6,500 of the cost to add aggregate. The remaining monies will come from the City's Lottery Fund, which City Clerk Dana Klabenes said had seen an unexpected increase in the third and fourth quarters, which made the funding doable for the City.
City Superintendent Dean Bly confirmed the project would be completed prior to the summer season.
"Thank you," Arehart said. "This is much appreciated."