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Little League park gets first upgrade in decades

The park in Davis Islands will get $425,000 in improvements to increase game and practice space for the expanding league.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 10, 2002


When it comes to scenic ball fields, few can beat the Bayshore Little League park on Davis Islands, with its waterfront and downtown views.

Soon, it will have the facilities to match.

The league is spending $425,000 to expand and upgrade the baseball and softball complex on Columbia Drive next to the Marjorie Park Yacht Basin. Work began earlier this year and should be done in the next several weeks. It marks the first, comprehensive renovation of the park in decades.

Officials say the project was needed to accommodate an influx of players, ages 5 to 16, who live on Davis Islands, Harbour Island and in parts of Hyde Park and New Suburb Beautiful. In the last four years, membership has jumped from about 350 to 450.

"We needed more ball fields, especially at the younger levels," said architect Keith Greminger, who volunteered to redesign the park with Joe Hafner. "We started looking at how we could rearrange the space and still maintain the playground and basketball court."

The project includes upgrades of two fields, a new concession stand with wheelchair-accessible restrooms, added lighting, a relocated basketball court and new bleachers and fences. It does not affect playground equipment.

The changes will increase game and practice space and enhance the facilities for parents and other spectators. In the future, league officials hope the city will add a sidewalk and benches along Seddon Channel.

Teams began playing on the new fields in March. The other improvements will debut by the start of winter ball in September.

The project has been in the works for about two years, but gained momentum last year thanks to a $100,000 donation from longtime league supporters Todd Alley and Cynthia Holloway. They also helped secure a loan to cover the costs while the group raises money.

"We really believe the Little League is a great way for kids to relate to other kids and learn about teamwork," Alley said.

So far, the league has collected tens of thousands from members, residents and business people. The city, which owns the 2.5-acre site and leases it to the league, chipped in $100,000. The league needs about $150,000 to pay off the loan over the next few years.

Officials say the improvements will add to the entire playing experience. Two of the four existing fields were mostly dirt and parents didn't have enough space to watch the games, said league president Dennis Manelli, whose two daughters play softball.

The park has been a Davis Islands fixture for decades. Thousands of Tampa youngsters have swung bats there, including baseball all-star Wade Boggs.

Greminger, with three children in the program and a fourth on the way, says Little League is a fun, healthy distraction.

"It really brings the community together. I've met a lot of great people here," he said.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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