Grant a home run for baseball fields

$10,000 from Farmers Insurance, Seattle radio station a first in Eastern Washington

The city of Cheney and the West Plains Little League received a grant to help build baseball fields, thanks to Farmers Insurance and 710 ESPN Seattle.

For the first time since its inception, the winner of the Improve a Field grant contest went to a city in Eastern Washington. Cheney City Council member and Farmers agent Doug Nixon heard about the contest and entered the city. He said he took a page from his City Council meeting packet that discussed the new park and the razing of the Wren Pierson Community Building and sent it in along with a questionnaire.

“All I said was, ‘Our fields are overused,’ ” Nixon said.

To celebrate receiving the $10,000 grant, kids from the West Plains Little League showed up in uniform in the parking lot of the old Wren Pierson CommunityBuilding, along with city officials, representatives from the insurance company and 710 ESPN Seattle. Everyone at the event enjoyed free hot dogs, chips and soda.

The West Plains Little League has grown quickly since its beginning in 2004. The first year, 330 kids ages 5 through 12 joined the league. This past summer there were 570 players ages 5 through 14 and 47 different teams. The league has also added a girls softball division and a Challenger Division for mentally and physically impaired athletes.

The loss of the Wren Pierson Building has posed a challenge for the city of Cheney. The parks and recreation department is now leasing space in the Tomlinson Black Building on First Street and the city wants to speed up plans to build a park and community center at what is being referred to as the 50-Acre Park. A bond on the ballot in November’s general election will ask voters to approve $5 million for construction. Tien Truong of Farmers said the insurance company received about 10 applications from throughout the state. He said Cheney was chosen because of rapid growth of the Little League in the area and because the parks are overused.

Mike Stark, co-chairman of Citizens for Parks, an organization promoting approval of the park bond, said the funds will go a long way toward helping build the new park in Cheney. He also stressed that he feels the bond is important for the community.

“This is no longer a want for the city of Cheney,” he told the crowd. “This is a need.”

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