Janesville33.5°

Major upgrade under way at sports complex

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THOMAS J. MILLER
April 28, 2009

The graders are putting the finishing touches on the land where four baseball diamonds and four softball diamonds will be in use next spring.


Officials from Janesville Youth Baseball and Softball Association envision the Youth Sports Complex as a vibrant part of the city for decades to come, bringing in area youth teams for baseball and softball tournaments.


That, in turn, will bring business for hotels and restaurants in the city.


The Youth Sports Complex, located off of Wuthering Hills Drive, has 12 soccer fields, four lighted football fields and two baseball fields.


Duffy Dillon, a member of the YBSA board of directors, believes when the added baseball and softball fields are ready for play next spring, Janesville likely will be the only city in the state with as complete of a youth sports complex.


“It will be on par with anything in the state of Wisconsin,” Dillon said.


Tim Whittaker, one of the leaders of JYBSA’s softball leagues, says he has been to tournaments in Rockford, Ill., and all around Wisconsin, and “this will be at least as good as any of those.”


The association received the land for the complex from the city. The land is east of Wuthering Hills Drive. The 12 soccer fields and four football fields are west of Wuthering Hills Drive.


Dillon and Whittaker said the complex couldn’t be located at a better spot, being just off Interstate 90 and bordering Highway 14. When lights are installed, the complex will be a can’t-miss site from Highway 14.


When completed, the complex will include three Babe Ruth baseball diamonds, three little league diamonds and four softball diamonds in the large parcel of land.


That will include the Phil McQuade Memorial Field already in use. That diamond was constructed along with another existing Little League diamond with funds raised by the annual Phil McQuade golf outing, held to honor the former Craig athlete.


Dave Ellis and Steve Ellis spearheaded the construction of those two fields.


The Janesville Youth Baseball and Softball Association, which includes Dave and Steve Ellis, is in the midst of a fund-raising drive to get the money needed to install fencing and dugouts, an irrigation system and lights and two concession stands.


Those approximate expenses total $1.2 million to $1.5 million.


Some of those expenses will be defrayed by JYBSA’s sale of its existing facility on Woodman Road. But JYBS has started a fund drive to get money to begin fence and irrigation work.


Dillon knows this is not an ideal time to raise money.


“We know how hard Janesville has been hit,” Dillon said. “When we first were going to announce this, I was up at (WCLO) to go on Stan Milam’s show, and (Gazette business editor) Jim Leute was up there. There was breaking news that they were going to close down a shift at GM.”


JYBSA delayed its fund-rasing campaign throughout 2008, but is now ready to start.


There are 580 youngsters involved in the JYBSA program this year, including 120 girls in the first year of the softball program.


Each family with a youngster involved in JYBSA will be asked to give or gather $1,000 toward the project.


In addition, alumni of the Janesville Youth Baseball program will be asked to contribute.


Dillon and Whittaker stressed that once the facilities are up, the complex will be self-supporting.


The complex will accommodate 16-team baseball and 32-team softball tournaments.


“We plan on having 12 to 16 tournaments a year,” Dillon said.


Using a formula developed by the Wisconsin Association of CVBs and the Wisconsin Sports Development Corp., each two-day baseball tournament would bring approximately $43,000 to the area, and every two-day softball tournament would produce $86,000.


That includes 12 of 16 baseball teams being from outside of Rock County and 24 of 32 softball teams coming in from outside the county. Those visitors would spend money for hotels, food, shopping and gasoline.


Based on those figures, the complex would generate between $750,000 and $1 million in local economic impacts each season.


“Hotels are excited about this, along with other organizations as well,” Dillon said. “This is an investment that will pay back because it will directly benefit Janesville’s youth and bring people to town for generations to come.”



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