Marion hopes to make its own field of dreams as council members pledged $750,000 last week to the proposed recreational complex Prospect Meadows Ball Fields.
The council approved a resolution to provide the $750,000 over the next five years to the 17-field baseball and softball complex northeast of Marion. The complex will host local leagues during the week and weekend tournaments, which would bring in teams from across the Midwest.
The $9.4 million complex will feature 17 fields, eight with 400-foot fences, eight with 300-foot fences and one “Miracle Field,” built specially for people with disabilities, according to proposed project. The complex will be equipped with seating, lights, a sound system, score boards, concessions, restrooms and press boxes. The ball fields will be for players age 7 up to adults.
City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said the project won’t just benefit Marion but the entire metro area as it will bring in spending for area hotels, restaurants and retail stores. The council has been talking with Jack Roeder, president of the project, about the project for quite some time. Pluckhahn said based on the “real world” numbers and other research conducted by Perfect Game USA, a Cedar Rapids scouting firm, the league tournaments would bring in about 60,000 visitors from outside the area each year and about 120,000 people to the complex annually.
Roeder, former general manager of the Kernels, said that translates into about 80,000 hotel rooms per year and $25 million in direct spending for the area. These numbers are based on other similar sized communities and facilities like in Des Moines, Ankeny and Burlington. The complex is estimated to create 200 full-time and part-time jobs with an annual payroll of more than $500,000.
“The Miracle Field will allow people with disabilities to experience our national pastime in a complex with everyone else,” Roeder said. “We’ll have programs for at-risk youth who can’t normally afford to play the game, which is an expansion of the ‘League of Dreams,’ a Kernels program which was initiated after the flood.”
Roeder said he greatly appreciates that the first donation is from Marion. The project will be funded by $4.2 million from private donations and $5.2 million will come from state and local funds and grants and loans. Once the complex is completed and opened, it will be self-sustained through its operational income, he said.
Roeder said this year will be spent raising funds but he’s hoping construction will start in 2014 and a target date for opening will be in 2015.