By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Picture this, if you will.
Picture softball and baseball fields at Keizer Rapids Park, as well as a multi-use field for soccer, football and lacrosse.
In addition, picture an adjoining indoor facility for indoor sports such as tennis and basketball, plus space for softball and baseball teams to use.
Add to it the Big Toy playground structure.
Can you picture that?
Troy Bingenheimer sure can.
Bingenheimer, the former softball director for Keizer Youth Sports Association (KYSA) the last three years, shared such a vision during the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting July 8 at McNary High School. The meeting was held at MHS instead of the customary Keizer Civic Center location in an effort to get ideas for potential future youth sports amenities at the park.
Bingenheimer, whose daughter will be starting seventh grade and plays softball, granted Keizertimes a follow-up interview this week to discuss his idea.
“I don’t have anyone necessarily working on it right now,” said Bingenheimer, who had hinted last week he had someone who might be willing to help out. “It’s more of a verbal, ‘Hey, what do you think we need?’ I can see what we need. I’ve been on the inside, at least on the KYSA side, to see what we need to improve. My idea to do it is because I saw the need.”
At this point, Bingenheimer doesn’t have any plans for a youth sports complex drawn up. He just has the vision of what he’d like to see.
“My idea, since we have such a large area down there (at KRP), is to get every sport down there,” he said. “We’ve got soccer, softball, baseball, football and lacrosse. We’re relying on school grounds or public use areas in order to have kids practice and/or train. There’s not a designated area for them. We would want to be able to include all sports.
“Baseball and softball fields can be used (for either sport) with portable mounds,” Bingenheimer added. “A football field can be used for lacrosse and soccer. An indoor facility could be used for tennis, basketball and as an indoor hitting area for baseball and softball. Every area would be a multi-use area. I would be envisioning Keizer Rapids Park as the ideal spot for all of this being together.”
Bingenheimer would like to see the softball and baseball fields used for tournaments, with the existing fields at Keizer Little League Park used as secondary fields.
“There are not enough fields right now,” he said. “We have a greater number of kids wanting to be involved, but we are not able to provide them an area.”
Bingenheimer said that includes young athletes in nearby cities such as Woodburn, Silverton, Dallas and Albany.
“They all are coming to KYSA for their softball needs,” he said. “We have a great deal of softball needs right outside of our own kids. The need for more fields is huge. There’s no place for them to practice, because the fields are busy all the days of the week for games. That area is maxed out. If we had more room, we would have more teams.”
So which part of the plan would be done first?
“If we’re able to do this all at the same time, then it doesn’t look like we’re favoring one sport over another,” Bingenheimer said. “I’ve got it envisioned in my head, an indoor facility and the Big Toy centrally located and fields on the other side. We would still have an excess area. You’d have a picnic area by the water for families. The use of it would be huge.”
With any plan like this, two of the first questions are cost and timing.
“The cost is going to be quite a bit of money, but it takes a dollar to make a dollar,” Bingenheimer said. “It will take someone to put up the cost and/or grants, and people in the community to make this happen. It’s going to benefit everyone involved.”
Sponsors and donors are already being sought for the Big Toy project, expected to be built at KRP next summer. Also next summer is when a new turf field is projected for McNary. Bingenheimer acknowledges his envisioned project “very well may” be competing with those projects for the same dollars.
“Say I owned a construction company and I was willing to have my crew go out a day here and there to create a football field and then donate it, with it being the Troy Bingenheimer Football Field,” he said. “That kind of thing would be something I would be willing to do. That would be my best route to go. I’m reaching out to all of the community. This will do nothing but benefit the community, with outside teams coming here and spending money here.”
And as for a timeline?
“You always want something like this to happen as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s probably something my daughter won’t be able to enjoy before high school. If it does happen by then, great for Keizer in supporting the youth.”
In the interim, Bingenheimer could see some current properties being utilized. That would include using the former Roth’s building – vacant since the grocery store moved out in June 2012 – for the indoor portion and reconfiguring the fields at KLL Park.
During the Parks Board meeting last week, Bingenheimer mentioned having someone who wanted to buy KLL Park and possibly redoing fencing lines. He also mentioned local teams struggling to stay competitive.
“Most of our teams are having their backsides handed to them,” he said. “Other teams are going to tournaments. We have six months of the year where we can’t do anything because the fields are a mess.”
Richard Walsh, a Parks Board member who was the key figure in the creation of KRP, noted the current master plan calls for open areas.
“It talks about a nice lawn and a big area, as opposed to organized sports,” Walsh said.
Bingenheimer responded that set fields would be more conducive to tournaments.
“Organized, dedicated fields would be more useful,” he said. “To get these actual games, to get six to eight teams in Keizer, you need actual fields.”
Board member Clint Holland noted Keizer Soccer Club used the former Circuit City building (now the REI) with success.
“They did that at Keizer Station with indoor soccer and got a good three years out of it,” Holland said.
Walsh noted Springfield has a facility with several inside gyms and an adjoining facility outside. Bingenheimer noted Medford started with a few fields and now has 20 fields.
Bingenheimer feels a sports complex would be compatible with the Big Toy.
“It would be perfect with the Big Toy,” he said. “Most kids who are coming in (for the tournaments) are coming in with families. There would be the Big Toy for younger kids to play on. A lot of the bigger fields you see have a playground in the area that young kids can plan on, so it would be a good fit.”