Exploring new opportunities to do just that was the mission for a fact-finding delegation from Prescott consisting of Councilmembers Jim Lamerson, Steve Blair and Tammy Linn, City Manager Steve Norwood and local resident Joe Baynes who went to Cooperstown, New York to explore the possibility of bringing a youth baseball facility to this area.
After attending the annual conference of the League of Cities and Towns from August 24 - 27, the group boarded a plane and headed east, to find out more about Cooperstown Dreams Park, which is home to the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.
Lou Presutti Sr., and his wife, Linda, founded the Dreams Park in 1995, with a goal of keeping America and baseball alive, by offering thirteen week-long camps to youth baseball teams. Attending players sleep in barracks, eat in tents large enough to accommodate 2000 and play lots of baseball - at least seven games, so long as the weather cooperates. Dreams Park has 22 fields.
In 2010, 1,172 teams consisting of 20,800 players came to the Dreams Park. And those were the lucky ones, more teams were turned away than were accepted.
The players were accompanied by 46,880 friends and family members who came to watch the games and cheer their teams on. And that's great for tourism, as the families and friends stay in local hotels, eat in restaurants, and visit nearby attractions.
Presutti wants to build a similar facility here in Prescott.
Why? Well, to Presutti, Prescott's a slice of Americana, and he appreciates the Native American culture in the community. The city has a long history with baseball and softball, and Prescott is a safe location for players to come to. The weather is a plus - and would possibly allow for an extended season of 30 weeks. It's not too far from the airport in Phoenix, and there is a lot to do in this part of Arizona.
How did the delegation respond?
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Linn said. "Right now, we're doing our research, and taking the time to do it right. This is a preliminary discussion, and we're doing our due diligence."
Blair agrees. "We have a lot more to do to put it together for the region," he said. Blair continued to explain that, "It would be a Prescott project that affects the region. Every community in the area will benefit by this project."
"There's no reason it wouldn't work," Lamerson stated. When asked if he would support the project, he responded, "The question is, why wouldn't you? It will import money through tourism."
The value to the local economy is potentially huge: increased sales tax base, hotel rooms filled, restaurants busy. Blair pointed out that yes, families and friends of the players will spend a certain amount of time at the ball park watching 'Johnny' play, but once that game's over, they'll want to find things to do and places to go.
One aspect that really impressed the delegation was the pristine operation of the facility and the standards upheld for the players. Dreams Park was called "The Disneyland of Baseball" by parents attending games, and Linn said the reasons why were obvious. Fields are maintained meticulously, barracks are spotless, there are whiskey barrels filled with flowers throughout the facility. The Park staff make sure every uniform is washed daily. Players are required to have their uniforms tucked in, cap on straight. They may not talk to their parents during the games. There's no "yo" type of talk allowed. Players that break the rules are suspended for two games.
Weather permitting, teams are guaranteed to play 7 games.
Questions and Challenges
How many jobs will it create?
- Between 500-600, mostly seasonal.
- Presutti loves to hire retirees, because of their work ethic.
- Jobs will also be created in building the facility, he would use only local contractors.
- Umpires are volunteers and trained by the Parks staff.
- 24 hour medical care is available on site.
Where would the park be located?
- That information isn't determined yet, although there is a possible offer of donated land.
- It needs to be large enough to accommodate 24 fields
What about water and sewer?
- Those issues are being evaluated right now.
- Presutti is willing to examine "green" options, such as rainwater harvesting, gray water, turf in the infield, solar power
How many visitors could be expected to come each year?
- Potentially 500,000
- Each week sees 1,200 - 1,600 players, coaches and umps arrive.
Will there need to be public transportation to and from the ball park?
- That is still being evaluated
Will local teams be able to use the facilities?
- Indications are that Little League teams could use the fields during the off season at the same price they currently pay
How many other Parks will there be?
- This would be the only one west of the Mississippi
- However, other communities are looking at similar Parks (see: Group heads to Cooperstown to visit park from the bgdailynews.com)
When would it open?
- Presutti would like to start playing ball in the spring/summer of 2012. This could also coincide with Centennial celebrations.
What kind of partnership would it be? Who would do what?
- At this point, City staff is still working on the details of the proposal.
Can It Be Done?
So, is it do-able? "Absolutely," answers Blair. "It's a big deal, and a lot will have to happen, but it's definitely do-able."
As a matter of fact, the councilmembers going on this fact-finding junket believed so much in the potential of this project, that they each paid their own expenses for the trip.
Sanford Cohen is one member of the public that's excited about this opportunity. Cohen is the host of the "Let's Talk Sports" show on KQNA, and owner of Arizona's Hometown Radio Group, which includes KQNA 1130 AM and 99.9 FM, KPPV 106.7 FM, KDDL 94.3 FM, KPKR 97.3 FM (in Parker) and the newest radio station located at the Grand Canyon, KUGO Travel Radio 102.5 FM. His response?
"Prescott ought to take a serious look at this project," Cohen said. "It would be a great asset to the tourism effort, and could have worldwide implications. After all, Prescott is predisposed to it already as the softball capital of the world."