After years of being forced to practice on run-down fields, Bigfork’s youth baseball players could soon have a new place to call home.
According to the Bigfork Youth Baseball Association, a deal has been in the works since last August that, if completed, would provide 20 acres for a new four-field baseball complex on the north side of Montana 83.
“We are probably looking at a three year minimum to be able to raise all the funds we need to pay for everything we want to build, but this is something that will not only benefit the teams in Bigfork, but also the rest of the teams in the Flathead Valley,” said Ryan Nelson, who is helping negotiate the deal. “It would provide another great venue to host games with teams not having to travel all over the state.”
According to the Bigfork Youth Baseball Organization, several similar deals have been proposed over the past several years, but opportunities to purchase the land that would be needed to build such a facility are quickly disappearing.
“People have been trying to do this for five to 10 years, not on this specific piece of land, but it is something our kids have needed for a long time,” association president Nathan Mayer said. “We are ready to make this happen. It’s families that make this town work and those families need a place where their kids can play sports without having to go to another town.”
Bigfork’s youth baseball teams currently utilize a number of county-owned fields scattered around the area, but all are aging, run-down facilities that suffer from a range of issues including rock-hard surfaces and extremely limited parking areas to one field with no running water and large tree roots protruding from the ground along the length of the outfield fence.
“Our local fields are not maintained at a level where anyone would be willing to come play us. Our local fields can be used for practice only at this point, and even that is difficult,” Mayer said. “It’s not the county’s fault. The situation just is what it is. The county can only spend so much on maintenance and we can’t come in and do anything to them ourselves, so we just do the best we can.”
With a project price tag of between $1.8 to 2 million, fundraising efforts are already underway to help purchase the land and start construction, with the hopes of having at least one new field ready for play in the spring of 2022. There is still a long way to go.
According to Mayer, $100,000 in donations is needed by Aug. 15 to provide a down payment on the land. The organization is planning a fundraising event for June 26 where it will unveil the site plan, organization and sponsorship and naming opportunities for the project. Plans are also underway for a Gofundme campaign for the project.
The fundraising dinner will take place at 257 Montana 83 and is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. The event will feature a 50/50 raffle as well as a silent auction featuring Major League Baseball autographed memorabilia and other items.
The Bigfork Youth Baseball Organization says the aim of the project is to make baseball more accessible to everyone in the community.
“Baseball should not just be available to kids who can travel. Baseball is something that should be accessible to all the kids in the community while being safe and affordable,” Mayer said. “We have so many low-income families around here who can’t afford to be traveling to Whitefish or Missoula on a weekly basis for youth sports. We need something local. We have simply outgrown the current field capacity moving forward. In order to have a safe, accessible, affordable sports option for the children of Bigfork, we believe a centralized sports complex is well overdue for this wonderful community.”
According to Nelson, if completed, the new field complex could be in use for decades to come.
“If we are able to make this deal and get these fields built, it ensures that there will be a nice, safe place for Bigfork’s baseball players for at least the next 100 years,” he said. “This is something the whole community can come out and enjoy. The kids around here deserve to be able to play on a home field.”
For more information, visit www.bigforkbaseball.org or find the group on Facebook.