When Holcom Sports Complex opened in 1973, it was a state-of-the-art facility that left other fields green with envy. Now it's just a place where kids play baseball and adults play slow-pitch.
"At one time, we had some pretty top-notch facilities," Fred DeVictor, director of the city parks and recreation department, said. "We haven't added too many, and the way the city's growing, we're getting behind the eight ball. The program needs are just about greater than we can meet, and we do need more facilities."
While baseball and softball at all levels need additional facilities, DeVictor said the greatest need right now is in youth baseball, and that's being addressed.
A year ago, DeVictor was allocated $250,000 to build two more baseball diamonds with lights and to install lighting at two diamonds at the YSI Complex on Wakarusa Drive south of Clinton Parkway.
Bids for that job were awarded last week and DeVictor said that the work should be completed by next summer.
BUT THAT'S only the beginning. According to a report completed last December, the city needs 10 diamonds for boys and girls baseball in the 7-12 age bracket, two for boys baseball ages 13-15, one for boys baseball ages 16-18, two for girls softball ages 13-18 and eight for adult softball.
Inadequate facilities can limit participation, notably in adult summer softball, which is capped at 250 teams.
"We don't have the facilities to grow any more," said adult sports supervisor Bob Stanclift. "Youth programs have continued to grow as well as the demand for fields for youth and adult. We've just maxed out, so there's not any diamonds anywhere that adults can play on."
City plans to deal with the problem center around YSI Complex. The report, labeled as a "conceptual site development study," calls for approximately $4 million to $8.6 million dollars to be spent over the next 15-20 years on three new baseball diamonds with 375-foot fences, 16 baseball-softball fields at 300 feet, four baseball fields at 230 feet (to go with the two that exist at that distance), five new soccer fields and two relocated soccer fields.
As for what will actually be done, DeVictor said that will be clearer in a few months.
"WE'RE GOING through having some public meetings and doing a comprehensive plan right now," he said. "That should be completed by the end of this year. We'll be doing a written survey -- a random sampling this fall, and we're asking citizens, 'What do they think of the parks and recreation services today and what do we need down the road?'"
That survey will help determine how to use capital improvement money.
"If the community thinks that ball diamonds are the number one need, or the number 10 need or whatever, we'll try to use that as a guide and allocate money toward those needs as money becomes available," DeVictor said.
Something both Stanclift and Lee Ice, the youth sports supervisor, would like to see is an adult softball complex.
"I think that in a town our size, and it's continuing to grow, 250 teams seems low to me," Stanclift said. "There's much more potential for teams and leagues if we have the ability to try to grow."
Although youth baseball also needs facilities, Ice would rather see a softball complex built than new youth fields, so that his program could take over fields currently used by adults.
"WHY DUPLICATE what you already have?" he said. "We've got youth facilities, but let's get the adults off of them. I would love to play my games at Broken Arrow, Woody and Lyon."
Besides the potential of extra revenue from additional teams, an adult complex would also offer the possibility of beer sales, a proven money-maker. However, selling beer would probably be a controversial issue.
"You get into moral issues and what society would accept or wouldn't accept," DeVictor said. "I don't know if that would be acceptable to our community or not."
Another benefit of a large complex would be the ability to put tarps over the diamonds and prevent rainouts.
"If you had a complex and your manpower would be all in one spot, it would be something you could possibly control," Stanclift said. "You could guard against vandals and damage. But not when you have 12, 14 fields and they're all over town."
Of course, the major snag to this and any other potential project is money. Lawrence is basically on its own here.
IN THE 70S, Lawrence received federal matching funds for the construction of Holcom Complex and Lyon Park. That fund has now virtually dried up.
Those funds are for outdoor use only, so DeVictor said the city will not apply for money at least until the end of the year, when it will decide whether its priorities are indoor or outdoor facilities.