Iowa city opens new $1.6M sports complex

May 20, 2018

DIKE, Iowa (AP) — The idea for a 25-acre sports complex dedicated earlier this month started with an off-the-cuff remark between friends getting their mail.

“I ran into Dennis (Kruger) in the post office,” recalled Kevin Hemmen. Kruger was holding a news clipping about a neighboring community’s efforts to build ball fields. Hemmen said he asked, “Why can’t we get something like that going in Dike?”

Soon Kruger and Hemmen — presidents of Kruger Seeds in Dike and Waterloo Warehousing and Service Co., respectively — were working with a group of community members on the idea. Less than four years later, the $1.6 million Kruger-Hemmen Sports Complex is a reality, thanks to their lead gifts as well as donations of dozens of residents and organizations plus countless volunteer hours.

The site is located along U.S. Highway 20 and features four baseball and softball diamonds, football fields and soccer fields, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported . A playground, shelter and a concession stand with restrooms are also part of the grounds along with courts for horseshoes, shuffleboard and ladder ball toss. A one-mile fitness path links to existing city and county trails.

“It goes to show you what a small community can do,” said Hemmen during the dedication ceremony.

Despite the overcast skies and a chilly wind, a crowd turned out for the event, where free pork sandwiches were served from the new concession stand. Morning soccer matches occurred before the event while baseball and softball games followed it.

“It’s not our best day out here, but we’re going to have many, many great days out here,” said Mike Soppe, Dike’s mayor.

He said volunteers had completed a lot of the labor at the complex including construction of the concession stand and public address tower, concrete work and planting of trees.

“Basically, the community of Dike came together and that’s why we’re here with this great facility,” he said.

Summer youth baseball and softball games began at the complex a year ago while the project was still being worked on. Soccer matches started prior to that after the fields were tiled and reseeded.

The project began in August 2014 when Kruger and Hemmen presented their proposal to the city of Dike. Kruger owned the property, part of which was already used for youth soccer games. He sold the land to the city for $438,000.

Kruger then donated $200,000 to the project and Hemmen matched the amount with his own gift. The Vision Iowa Board donated a little more than $100,000 through its Community Attraction and Tourism grants. Bob Hellman and his nonprofit group Build Our Ballpark have also been major contributors to the project.

Hellman recalled the town meeting about the project and remarked on the “25 marvelous acres of green space” chosen for the complex. He said it was a “very, very rare opportunity” to be able to build on such pristine land.

Build Our Ballpark has worked on 49 playing fields in nine communities across two states in the last 10 years, but Hellman said Dike’s complex is a “crown jewel” among its efforts. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

A sign near the ball diamonds lists dozens of other financial contributors to the complex, from those who donated $25,000 and more to those who gave $250 and more.

The nonprofit organization Fields2Fields, which grew from a steering committee of Dike residents, spearheaded development of the complex.

“Without their leadership, the work they put into grants (and) fundraising, it would probably still be a good idea,” said Hemmen, rather than a reality.

Justin Stockdale, president of Fields2Fields, spoke of the pride he had in the complex and suggested it would help to keep Dike a viable community. Noting its visibility from the highway, he added, “This is our brand, this is what we’re all about.”

Stockdale said the complex is an important addition to the community, which had limited facilities for its summer youth program. For this summer, the program has more than 300 children signed up, which is similar to past years.

“We had one field to play ball on,” he said. “The need was there.

“The next step is considering if we want to install lights,” said Stockdale, for the ball diamonds. He envisions the complex eventually as a venue that will host tournaments and be an asset for the entire Cedar Valley.


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com

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