BURLINGTON - High-fives, cheering parents and smiling ballplayers will return to the Burlington Sports Complex in 2014.
The two-diamond complex has been silent since the flood of 2011 destroyed the concession stand, bathrooms and ball fields. The destructive flood washed away the fields of dreams for hundreds of youth.
If all goes as planned, grass will be planted on renovated diamonds in the coming weeks. Most of the property landscape work is complete and a foundation has been poured for a new concession building. A final financial hurdle to the project was cleared Wednesday when the DeSour Valley Development Corporation donated $100,000 to the Burlington Recreation Commission. The presentation took place near where home plate will be on the facility's main baseball diamond.
Burlington Mayor Jerome Gruenberg, left, visits with Terry Zeltinger, DeSour Valley Economic Development Corporation, at the Burlington Sports Complex. It is expected that play will resume at the complex’s ball diamonds in 2014 for the first time since the 2011 flood.
"This means everything to me and the whole Burlington Recreation Commission," said Paula Bachmeier, Burlington Recreation Commission. "We've been working so hard to get this park up and running so our kids have a place to play. This donation today is the amount needed to finish our concession stand, bathrooms and grass."
Earlier donations raised money for playground equipment and chain link fencing. Volunteers will be called upon to complete the concession building.
"It's a privilege to be able to help," said Glen Stevens, president, DeSour Valley Development. "That's basically what the development corporation is for, to help the community grow and help in times of need. This is one of those times."
Bachmeier estimates that 700 youth will utilize the sports complex when it reopens. Participation in the past has been very high. Burlington's diamonds hosted numerous players of all ages from elsewhere in the region, beginning with T-ball through Legion baseball.
"It's part of our recovery. We're really looking forward to getting the ball games going again. We have great participation out here. It was really hurting us not to have something," said Mayor Jerome Gruenberg. "This complex brings people in to notice the town. It's great economic development."
Without the sports complex, boys baseball and girls softball games have been played at a rough diamond at Burlington's Old Settler's Park. Scheduling has been limited and participation has suffered.
"Getting this back in shape is going to be very, very important for our community," said Terry Zeltinger, DeSour Valley Development. "This is a real quality of life place for the city of Burlington. We've really missed it the last two years. It was just an integral part of the community and a showplace for the whole area."
Next spring the Burlington Sports Complex is expected to come to life once again. The ballplayers will return, parents and spectators will be seated in the bleachers and lining the fences. Cheers from the diamonds will once again be heard in Burlington, joyously announcing another step toward recovery from the 2011 flood.