Cowley seeks grant to complete ballpark development

File photo
File photo

If the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board gives its blessing today (Thursday), the Town of Cowley will not only have a first class Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball park, it will have a full-service, year-around recreational center for young and old.

The Cowley South Park Project goes before SLIB after being given the go-ahead by the Wyoming Business Council this spring, Mayor Joel Peterson said. The town is seeking a $500,000 grant, matched by $40,000 in cash and in-kind labor the town has put into the senior league baseball park in recent years.

Cowley is seeking a Business Ready Grant for the project.

Peterson said the Business Council conducted a pair of on-site visits, initially by WBC Northwest Region representative Leah Bruscino and later by staff from Cheyenne.

“They liked what they saw and they have recommended it,” Peterson said.

The project has several facets:

Lights for the senior league baseball park.

A splash park for kids on 4th Street South just east of the ballfield behind right field.

A picnic area with playground equipment to the south of the splash park.

A sledding hill south of the picnic area with an amphitheater setting and a built-in tee-ball field.

An ice rink beyond second base in the outfield of the baseball field.

Peterson said the lights could be used not only for baseball but for other activities including ice skating during the winter.

He said the splash or fountain park will include spray features, dump features and pop-up features. The town has looked at similar parks in other communities, including Ten Sleep, the mayor said, noting that the Ten Sleep splash park is “busy every day.”

“They’ve made great recommendations like getting away from metal features and using plastic features, which can be removed and stored during the winter,” Peterson added. “The town has an opportunity to have something that’s durable and low maintenance.”

Peterson noted that the grant will pay for the picnic area and fencing, but the town will have to pay for the playground equipment. He added that the sledding hill will be used in many ways including winter recreation, an amphitheater, tee-ball and watching baseball games. He said it will also provide high ground for a planned circuit training course around the whole newly developed area for walking and jogging. Each lap would be about 400 meters, he said.

The skating rink will feature a six-inch wall and a liner with hockey lines on it. The rink will be laid and tacked down once the grass goes dormant in the late fall, then removed in the spring. Adding the rink will allow the baseball park to be used more than three or four months a year, the mayor added.

At a cost of $12,000, the rink will be the last phase of the multi-faceted project, Peterson said.

“This project makes the park a 12-month park, which is kind of unique in the Basin,” he said.

The top priority is the lights, and bids should be let this fall, Peterson noted, after the grant money is appropriated on July 1. Pryor Mountain Engineering of Cowley is the engineer for the South Park Project.

Boon to baseball

Senior League Baseball Manager Ray Peterson said the project should enhance baseball in North Big Horn County. He said he hopes that bids for the lights come in below the projected $250,000, which might allow at least materials to be purchased for a planned indoor batting cage just beyond dead centerfield, which would also provide a hitting backdrop when viewed from home plate.

It will be exciting to have lights at the ballfield, Ray said, and he plans to have a ceremony at the first night game thanking everyone who donated to the project, such as the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad, which contributed $10,000 toward the lights.

Joel Peterson said he hopes the entire park will help halt the attrition that is taking place as ballplayers grow older. He said there are 212 kids playing Little League baseball, and Ray Peterson said there are only around 30 total playing Babe Ruth and Legion ball.

With youths wanting to work, having night practices and games will allow players to work during the day and participate in baseball at night, both Petersons said.

“I’d like to see two, three or four Babe Ruth teams like their used to be,” Joel said, and Ray added that it would be nice to have a developmental “B” Legion team.

Night baseball also will allow more adult volunteers to participate in the programs after a workday, the Petersons said.

Ray Peterson said he has encouraged the Town of Lovell to construct a Babe Ruth field in town, so there would be two regulation-sized ballparks in the area, which would enhance practices and game scheduling. Lovell is currently in the planning stage.

Enhanced neighborhood

Joel Peterson said the South Park Project will dovetail nicely with planned improvements to 4th South including water and sewer lines, street resurfacing and new sidewalks, curb and gutter, plus parking for the ballpark along the north and west sides.

The mayor would also like to see restrooms eventually added near the picnic/playground area. The current concession stand could be used not just during baseball games but also for the splash park and, during the winter, the ice rink and sledding hill, tying the entire project together.

“This will make an entire package,” Peterson said. “It will allow everyone to come and participate. The young kids can play in the splash park while the older kids play baseball. I would love to see girls softball, too.

“This is just the starting point. I would love to see lights around the Little League field so there could be a fast-pitch softball league.”

By David Peck