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Al Boelke, Jack Brown approved for N.D. Parks and Rec grant

The Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department recently received funding from the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department to make improvements to the Al Boelke baseball complex and Jack Brown Stadium.

amy walters at al boelke park.jpg
Amy Walters, executive director of Jamestown Parks and Recreation, stands Monday, April 25, 2022, in the Al Boelke Baseball Park where she helped secure a grant for a major improvement project to the complex.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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Nearly 60 years worth of Jamestown baseball has been played over at Al Boelke Complex but even the most historic facilities need a facelift from time to time.

"The Al Boelke baseball complex has served us since the 1960s so it's a facility that has aged and is in need of renovations and updates — from a safety standpoint, an accessibility standpoint and a playability standpoint," Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department Executive Director Amy Walters said.

The Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department was one of 16 local park district facility renovation applications for funding by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department.

During the 67th Legislative Assembly special session, Senate Bill 2345 established a $5 million local park district facility renovation grant utilizing federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to assist local communities in renovating and upgrading their existing outdoor recreation facilities.

In total, the department received 102 applications from 61 park districts for the Park District Facility Renovation Grant, totaling almost $14.3 million in project fund grant requests. Park districts were able to compete in one of two population categories — Category A and Category B. Both the Jamestown projects — the Al Boelke and Jack Brown Stadium — were part of the B category. Category B had $3.5 million available for population centers $15,000 and higher.

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"The funding itself was allocated at the last legislative session to park districts for renovations of outdoor facilities," Walters said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been working closely with Jamestown's competitive baseball organization, JAYBAL, to formulate the official proposal. Walters said the JAYBAL organization approached the Parks and Rec Department about updating Al Boelke at the beginning of the year.

A hurried formulation of a proposal followed the conversation and as of last week, the Parks and Recreation Department received word its proposal had been selected.

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department approved Jamestown's grant request of $911,100 to update the Al Boelke baseball park.

The Jamestown Parks and Rec Department also received a $10,000 grant to install safety netting along the first baseline at Jack Brown Stadium.

"We were very fortunate to have our proposal selected," Walters said. "It was a highly competitive process so we're very grateful that our project was considered and funded at the level that it was."

The total estimated cost for the Boelke Park Renovation is $4.68 million. That includes a reconfiguration of the fields, two turf infields, a potential restroom and concession buildings and a dedicated parking spot on the west side of the site.

Three of the fields are slated to measure the Cal Ripken size while the other two will be Babe Ruth sized. The turf infields have been designated for the Babe Ruth-sized fields.

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Walters said the Parks and Rec Department is working closely with Jamestown's JAYBAL organization to finalize the design and the plan and then talk about what the construction schedule will look like and how the department can limit impacts

"We're super excited about it — you can't ask for a better way to start the project than with that grant money," JAYBAL Secretary Matt Perkins said. "Hopefully other things will fall in line and we can continue to get keep pushing this project forward."

The grant as awarded states that all projects must be completed by September of 2023. Perkins said that at this time, the Parks and Rec Department, along with JAYBAL will be looking to finish up the preshovel work — such as getting fundraising bids out to the public— by the spring of 2023, then commence construction.

"It will entail all of the types of fundraising," Walters said. "We're very early in this process. We're working to put the fundraising strategy together with the JAYBAL board and using some of our similar processes that we have in the past with other construction projects.

"It's obviously going to take a lot of bake sales to get to that number but we're going to work to move this project forward."

Walters said in addition to public fundraisers, the Parks and Rec program would also look at other potential grant dollars to leverage as well as looking at private donations from both individuals and corporations.

"We really want the facility to be an extension of Jack Brown Stadium which is really already very established and historic and we just want to expand on that," Walters said.

Perkins said the Al Boelke complex will serve as a footprint for the reconfiguration of fields but that there will be some added construction within McElroy Park with the moving of some roads and Parks and Rec Department buildings.

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Walters said the property to the south and to the west of the current complex area would be added into the new complex design.

"We find that it's oftentimes a struggle to get other teams to come and play us here because safety is a huge concern," Perkins said. "Outside of the bleachers immediately to the rear of the backstops, there's no real spot that fans can sit and watch that is in a safe spot because there are no fences.

"This project would get people excited about coming to Jamestown to play baseball again."

Perkins said the renovation will also hopefully help eliminate congestion at the complex during popular practice times.

"Practice times are really after school or after work for most teams and a lot of times it's super congested down there," Perkins said. "Our hope is that with the new design more teams can be practicing at the same time."

The complex will not only be able to be used by the JAYBAL programs but also by the Jamestown High School, American Legion, University of Jamestown and the city's amateur baseball teams.

"The baseball program has continued to grow year after year and that is what has driven a lot of this need," Walters said.

The increase in numbers means there will need to be some solutions when it comes to baseball in 2023 but Perkins and Walters said they expect coaches, team members, fans and competition to be understanding and accommodate the impending construction come next summer.

"Ultimately there will be some give and take with that but hopefully the end result will maybe soften the challenges of not having facilities for a season to use," Walters said.

Perkins said that while construction is occurring down at the Boelke complex, the JAYBAL organization will need to get creative with how it will schedule practices and games as the season will plan to run as normal.

While no concrete solution has been found at this time, Perkins said the organzation could look at scheduling games on the road, participating in more tournaments than doubleheaders, utilizing softball facilities in town or practicing out of town.

"I think we have to keep all of our options on the table and keep people aware of the end goal," Perkins said. "It's a short-term pain for a long-term gain.

"There's very few places you can play youth tournaments and our hope is that a redesigned complex would help generate traffic into Jamestown."

Related Topics: JAMESTOWN BLUE JAYSBLUE JAYS BASEBALLJACK BROWN STADIUMBASEBALL
Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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