Prospect Meadows Ball Field Bringing Families Together
By Michelle Howe
When I hear the words “If you build it, they will come,” immediately the famous line brings to mind the film it is from - Field of Dreams. Such is the case with a new baseball venue in Linn County scheduled to be open for play in March of 2019 - Prospect Meadows. The vision of the community, investors and the state send the same message to eastern Iowa - if you build it, we will come.
The Prospect Meadows Ball Field (PMBF), as it will be known, has identified a 128-acre parcel of land that is located near County Home Road and Highway 13 in Linn County. With a design, project cost and schedule in hand, the group has received strong support from the Linn County Board of Supervisors and leased the land for $1 per year for 95 years to the non-profit organization, Prospect Meadows Inc., a 501c3 formed by PMBF volunteers.
According to Jack Roeder, President of PMBF, “It’s a great compilation of partners that are helping to make this happen.” A private fundraising drive has helped the project near reality. Two of the largest donors to date are Transamerica and Perfect Game. “In addition,” says Roeder, “Linn County, Linn County Conservation, Marion and Cedar Rapids have all given us tremendous help from the public side on the local level.” At the state level, the project has received a RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) award of nearly 1.3 million in addition to a state CAT (Community Attraction Tourism) award of 1 million. State legislators have been very supportive as well. A sales tax rebate was proposed by local legislators and signed by the Governor. The legislation will make them eligible to accumulate up to $2.5 million in sales tax rebates, based on incoming revenue, over a ten-year period of time.
With great community support, the project is looking to have a visible positive impact on the area, with four bases of emphasis. The first benefit is obviously adding more playing fields for youth. The second base is building a Miracle Field for those with Special Needs and Disabilities. Charlie Becker, executive director of Camp Courageous has been a big help in the development of this part of the project. The local Kiwanis Clubs has also taken the lead on this part of the project, with their outstanding donations. Miracle fields include a cushioned, rubberized surface to help prevent injuries, wheelchair-accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate barriers for wheelchairs. In the Miracle League, special-needs players are paired with buddies who assist them and cheer them on. Every player gets to bat once each inning; every player is safe on bases; every player gets to round the bases and score each inning; and the last player in a lineup always gets a home run.
The third base in the PMBF vision is the expansion of the Cedar Rapids Kernels League of Dreams program which currently helps out 2nd and 3rd graders hoping to play ball. In 2009, the Cedar Rapids Kernels partnered with the Hall Perrine Foundation, Perfect Game USA, Minor League Baseball Charities, The Rawlings Sporting Goods Company and the Cedar Rapids Park & Recreation Department to launch the “League of Dreams,” a youth baseball program for second-and third-graders in flood-affected areas. At Prospect Meadows Ball Field, this program will be extended for kids in 4th, 5th and 6th grades. The local Optimist Clubs have stepped up to the plate to make sure these kids are not left behind and will have a place to play.
Last, the economic impact is going to be enhanced by having tournaments that will have players and families staying anywhere from one to five nights, depending on the tournament format. Research suggests that this could generate over $20 million in revenue for the community. Knowing Iowans love for baseball, I have every reason to believe that indeed, “if we build it - they will come.” For youth baseball, the disabled and special needs kids and the economic impact, it’s easy to see that the Prospect Meadows Ball Field is a win/win for all.