HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton City Council will consider providing West Side Little League $300,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to improve facility safety for players and fans.
City Manager Joshua Smith said he and Mayor Pat Moeller met with representatives from West Side Little League earlier this year to discuss the issues with the baseball organization’s facility on Eaten Ave., and its $1 million capital campaign.
“Where we really focused our conversations with West Side Little League was under the health and safety part of what they’re trying to do,” Smith said.
His staff is asking City Council to consider taking $300,000 of the ARPA funds which was allocated to the city’s general fund and provide that to West Side Little League, specifically for health and safety improvements. Smith said they’ve also asked West Side Little League to match those dollars through additional fundraising.
This request will be presented for the council’s consideration at the March 23 meeting where a formal resolution will be presented.
Hamilton received $32.6 million in ARPA funds and has until the end of 2024 to obligate that money, and until the end of 2026 to spend that money. Smith said the city has either encumbered or spent a little more than $25 million of those funds.
ARPA funds can be used for a variety of projects, including supporting the safety of its citizens. Some of the safety concerns with the West Side Little League facility include antiquated, damaged or broken stands and dugout benches, deteriorating dugout and retaining walls, damage to the press box due to a leak, and aging backstops and netting.
Smith said in 2015, the city or parks spent almost $1 million to improve some of the outdoor areas at Crawford Woods and the Booker T. Washington Center.
“This would just be a continuation for improvements for the West Side Little League area,” Smith said.
Of the improvements at Crawford Woods and Booker T. Washington, dugouts, fencing, and fields were improved, though Smith said the proposed ARPA allocation to West Side Little League would not be for field improvements.
Improvements to the West Side Little League’s aging facility are planned to take around five years to complete, said Board of Directors President Josh Davidson.
“We’ve been an organization since 1953, and in some cases, some of our structures are pretty much just as old,” Davidson said. “So we are at a critical point.”
Davidson said the youth baseball organization also has seen some major plumbing issues and deteriorating perimeter fencing.
Fundraising will be handled through the Hamilton Community Foundation, and the organization has already received assistance from the Reds Community Fund. Davidson said the organization has been an advisor of sorts as he and his board gear up the capital campaign.
Reds Community Fund Executive Director Charley Frank said he and his organization are impressed with West Side Little League’s focus on the athletes within the community, and they’ve continued for decades to provide baseball and softball opportunities for more than 500 kids a year.
“It’s for these reasons, and many more, that the Reds and the Reds Community Fund have already pledged support for the much-needed capital upgrades, and scholarship dollars for the program,” Frank said.
The city’s premier youth baseball organization has played on the biggest of stages, including its Major League age division (12-year-olds) being the 2021 Little League World Series runners-up. It was the organization’s fifth trip to Williamsport, Pa, the home of the Little League World Series.
To support the West Side Little League capital campaign, visit the Hamilton Community Foundation and select “Donate Now” to search for the campaign. To go directly to the donation site, visit tinyurl.com/WSLLCapCampaign.
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