“This is our house.”
You hear this quite often in sports.
The home field advantage.
At the western gateway of Clay Center we have our sports houses.
We have Unruh Stadium for football.
We have Kelly Campbell Field for baseball.
Our home fields. Our houses.
But our sports houses have not been taken care of very well.
Sports fields need maintenance. Almost daily maintenance.
Our fields and stadiums have not been maintained well.
They need some care.
They need us, the community.
There’s been a lot of finger pointing about these problems.
Lots of blame, lots of ideas, very little action.
It reminded me of a phrase Coach Dail Smith would tell our football kids.
“When you point the finger of blame, remember three of your own fingers are pointing straight back to you.”
It was time to become part of the solution.
In late 2013, Rex Carlson, Larry Wallace, Jr. and I took on a project to renovate Campbell Field.
The mayor gave us the fancy title of the ad hoc Committee for Campbell Field Renovation.
Why in the world would we take on such a daunting task?
First, there was the eye test.
Things had fallen apart.
The playing surface was a mess.
Dugouts, mounds, bullpens, fence…all a mess.
Lack of daily maintenance, lack of water, and lots of Kansas wind did major damage.
Second, there was the ear test.
People were saying a lot of bad things about our baseball field. Many of these people were the same people who failed to raise a finger to help, who failed to hold up their promises and turned away from their commitments.
Their words stung. Their words lit a fire.
Their words fueled a change.
Third, we opened our own eyes and saw the work being done for area youth baseball. We saw kids enjoying the game of baseball all around us. We saw teams practicing and working to get better. We saw youngsters smiling and playing the game.
We knew these kids deserved a decent place to play the game.
We also knew the most important thing to accomplish was a renovation plan that could be maintained within the limited budget and resources of the city and the city recreation department. The plan needed to be smart, it need to be maintainable and it needed to maximize every dollar graciously donated by people and businesses of our community toward the project.
With the blessing and support of the city, we are working toward making Campbell Field a safe, playable, rural Kansas 4A high school baseball field. This is our goal. Our goal is not to build a professional or collegiate field. Our system could never maintain such a dream field.
In all honesty, facilities aren’t not the best of investments. The more resources you spend on them, the more resources it takes to maintain them. Our philosophy is to take care of what we have so our community can spend the bulk of their limited resources on programs, not facilities.
We are getting closer to our goal and have set up a fund for donations through the Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation to help the common sense renovations of Campbell Field, Schaulis Field, and Montel Field. If you are interested in helping the cause through a greatly appreciated donation or an in-kind donation, please contact Rex, Larry, me, or the CC Community Improvement Foundation for information.
I hope a similar, common sense financial approach will be taken with Unruh Stadium renovation.
A plan to fix the structural problems and maintain the facility for the long-term. A plan to address the ADA compliant issues with perhaps ramp/viewing areas (30-40 feet across) at the ends of the stands following the basic design Oakley, Kansas used on their WPA-era stadium renovation a few years back.
Maybe even redesign the player and fan space in the stadium by turning the current home locker room, men’s restroom, storage room,and referee room at the south end into a new men’s and women’s restrooms/concession area in that space. At the north end of the stadium, expand the visitor’s locker room into current women’s restroom and add additional showers in that space. A new metal building could be constructed for the home locker room/referee room/storage room in the grass area south of the stadium where the team bus currently parks. The fencing behind the stadium needs a face-lift anyway and could be moved to accommodate this structure. If funds are available or raised, a limestone arched entryway/ticket booth addition would look great attached to the north and south end of the stadium.
I thoroughly appreciate my years enjoying this view while coaching football.
It was a blast to have coached football and baseball in Clay Center.
It was an honor to be a part of something so special.
We do have something special in Clay Center. Believe me, coming from a 6A city school, what we have in Clay Center, with our fields, our fans, and our kids are all very, very special.
I think it’s time to go to work. It’s time to keep our special things special.
Purpose. Pride. Passion.
The Clay Center Way.