Slowly but surely the Kee High baseball and softball teams, as well as the local booster club, are watching their goal of several major renovations to their playing fields get closer to becoming a reality.
With concerns about the safety of the bleachers looming over the 2013 season, the school district announced plans to replace the bleachers at both the baseball and softball fields. The framing had deteriorated and failed to meet current safety requirements.
With the season fast approaching and several huge milestones on the horizon, the booster club and school have now expanded bleacher replacements into a full-blown multiple phaze project that includes new concession stands, irrigation sources, dugouts and improved playing fields all the way around.
“Things are rolling along,” said project committee member Val Reinke. “We have had a lot of great contributions from a lot of people and businesses.”
To date, approximately $167,000 has been raised and Reinke said, “We’re shooting for that $200,000 mark.”
The project has two planned phases. Phase one for this spring at the two fields includes in-ground dugouts, new bleachers, new restroom/concessions buildings and an irrigation source behind the pitchers’ mounds. Site specific phase one plans call for a new crown on the softball infield and a new backstop and grandstand at the baseball field.
Phase two this fall will bring about a re-crowning of each of the outfields. Eastern Allamakee Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier noticed the antiquated bleachers last summer as he completed his first year with the district.
“I was really worried about our liability in the event of an accident. The gaps between the seats and the footboards were dangerous and the safety rails weren’t too sturdy,” Crozier said.
Jeff Cota, another of the project organizers, said, “The summer of 2013 has some important milestones. Kee High’s next baseball win will be Coach Gene Schultz’s 1,700th win. It will have been 40 years since the 1973 team won the school’s first state championship with a 47-0 record and Shooky will be gone for 25 years (he passed in 1988). We think the timing is perfect for the makeover of our fields.”
Schultz will also have the honor of throwing out the first pitch April 27 at the Minnesota Twins home game against the Texas Rangers at Target Field. Schultz is the all-time leader in high school baseball coaching victories in the nation.
In combining the school’s financial commitment, generous donations from New Albin Savings Bank and Kerndt Brothers Savings Bank, a portion of existing Kee Booster funds and private contributions, more than $160,000 is already in place. “We will be relying on the contributions of alumni, parents and fans to help us reach our goal,” said Mike Brennan, one of the district patrons spearheading the effort.
Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project is urged to contact Val Reinke at New Albin Savings Bank at (563) 544-4214.
– Brady Ambrose