No more Memorial Park for the little league

By Michele Townsend

West Sacramento is buzzing with the news that Memorial Park, located on Euclid Street, will no longer be the home of West Sacramento Little League.
The little league came to West Sacramento in 1953, and by 1954 West Sacramento chartered its first league with Little League International. Memorial Park has been the home of that league for the past 65 years, but 2018 will be the final baseball season played at that park.
Each year the league grows, and after the merging of WSLL and Washington Little League a couple of years ago, WSLL has grown to some 20 teams.
Each team plays a minimum of 10 games per season. When you add in All Stars, playoffs and tournaments — the number of baseball games that have been played there, in 65 years, would be pretty amazing. In turn, the number of kids that have ran those bases, would be just as amazing! So, after generations of play, it is no wonder that the community is sad to see the league lose its home.
What some do not understand, is that those involved have known this was coming for several years.
In 2010, a lawsuit settlement imposed that upgrades to five parks need to be completed by 2020. Improvements for Bryte park have to be completed by 2015 but are under way and should be done in the next few months. They include new bathrooms, a drinking fountain, curb ramps and parking. Required ADA improvements per the settlement agreement have already been completed at Summerfield Park, Touchstone Park, Pennsylvania Park, and Circle Park.
Again, the City of West Sacramento and the league have known this was coming and have actively been working and planning so that West Sac Little League could enjoy its home for as long as possible.
The city released the following statement, “Due to a court ordered settlement, the City is required to implement ADA improvements to Memorial Park no later than 2020. In addition, Public Works has a large sidewalk and street improvement project slated for the area that will impact accessibility to the park during construction. This will have an impact on all of the activities at Memorial Park but none greater than Little League. The City has been in discussions with the volunteer leadership of West Sacramento Little League regarding the necessity to close Memorial Park for the 2019 season due to the construction and the need to find a new permanent home for West Sacramento Little League. The City is working with Little League to try and address the field shortage the closure will create and to identify temporary and long term solutions as Little League has a rich and strong history in the community and provides a vital program for our City’s youth. We are confident that working together we will find solutions to continue this great tradition and allow the program to grow.”
Both West Sac Little League and city officials would like for the community to be aware that they consciously waited this long to make these improvements at Memorial Park.
Paul Hosley, Director of Public Information, stated, “There is a long and rich history of sports activities, including Little League, at Memorial Park. A conscientious decision was made to wait as long as possible to implement the changes at Memorial Park in order to: 1) Allow Little League to continue to play at the historic location before permanent changes needed to be made; 2) Schedule needed improvements at other parks cited in the litigation first, again, to allow activities to continue at Memorial Park for as long as possible; and 3) Budget the funds to implement the necessary ADA improvements over the past ten year period. Not all the improvements to all the parks could be done at one time.”
West Sacramento Little League 2018 Umpire in Chief Tom Benett said, “We want people to know that we are working with the city. It’s all friendly. The city is not just kicking us out!”
So what solutions have they come up with? As of now, the plan is for WSLL’s “home base” to be moved to the Alyce Norman/ Bryte baseball fields, located on Carrie Street, starting with the 2019 baseball season. “I mean, we use those fields now, as well as other fields around town,” said Tom Bennett. “So, it won’t be that new.” Currently the little league has practice and games at multiple sites throughout the City including Alyce Norman, Bryte, and Bridgeway Lakes parks as well as Memorial Park.
While Little League will not be able to play the 2019 season at Memorial Park, City staff and Little League leadership are confident that the 2019 season can be played at the remaining youth sports facilities located throughout the city using creative scheduling.
As for 2020, and beyond, there is talk of building a sports complex, as well as talk of adding fields to locations such as Westmore Oaks Elementary (also referred to as “Old River City High School”). The City is looking at reuse options for Westmore Oaks Elementary School fields that could accommodate temporary as well as permanent youth sports fields that could address the long term needs of not only Little League but other youth sport organizations in the City. The GOAL is to have “all of the kinks” worked out by 2020.
Above all, Little League is alive and well in West Sacramento. They will always welcome kids and volunteers alike. And this entire situation is a good example of why those Little League meetings are important!
WSLL will continue to work with the planning committee and other officials to insure that our future ball players will have available to them, the same Little League program that has been such a key point in the development of so many of us!  The City’s Parks and Open Space Master Plan update is currently underway with opportunities to provide input regarding the City’s future needs related to recreation and leisure activities. Please visit  HYPERLINK “http://www.planwestsacparks.com/participate.html”planwestsacparks.com for more information.

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