There are a lot of exciting things happening in our town of Sutton lately! One of the most recent and talked about projects is the new softball and baseball complex, officially named DLD Park. Mustang Media recently sat down with Todd Mau, the Mayor of Sutton and Jeff Hofaker, the City Administrator, to visit about details of the project and what it means for the city of Sutton and its residents.
For directions to our DLD Ball Complex, click here.
Where is DLD Park located?
Jeff: DLD Park is located on the west side of town, right off the old DLD highway, better known as Ash Street thru Sutton. It is on what used to be agricultural ground just south of the CPI facility. The complex covers about 25 acres including the two parking areas.
When is DLD scheduled to open?
Jeff: Right now we’re looking at opening it up in April of 2016. The complex has really been taking shape over the last few months. Some aspects of the project are yet to be finished during October and into November, like the parking lot rock, fencing, and scoreboard placement. There will still be some minor finishing touches going on with the Concession building after this time period. The project had some unexpected delays in late summer which bottlenecked the planting of the grass, but we were very encouraged to see the ‘green’ coming up in the fields.
What events will be held at DLD Park?
Jeff: Nothing is set in stone quite yet, due to most regional baseball coaches starting their planning in November. But we do know of several baseball tournaments which are in the regional rotation for Sutton in 2016. There will be the regularly scheduled rotation of softball and baseball games as well. We will always be open to hosting tournaments or regular games from the surrounding area that may have a need to utilize our complex.
When will DLD Park close yearly?
Jeff: This complex will be set up on a seasonal schedule, like other complexes. There will be activity at the complex starting in early spring of each year, thru the season until fall when the games finish. Spring maintenance will start early each year (April); then continue through the sports season, into the fall (October) to prepare it for the winter. During the development of the DLD park, and additional area to the east of the large parking lot was leveled out for soccer fields. Although this idea was not in the original planning, several minds came together to start the process of developing this waste area as the future soccer field location. Future enhancements to that area will occur to grow recreational activities.
What are the age groups of children that will be playing on DLD Park?
Jeff: It is my understanding that the historical age groups playing the softball and baseball have started as far down as pre-Kindergarten age up to 8th grade for baseball. Softball starts with the 6th grade area then moves all the way up through high school ages.
Todd: Any. It will start at T-Ball and go up to high school aged children.
With the “Go Kids” Banner Sponsorship Program, what will that money go towards?
Jeff: At this time, a majority of the funding is going towards the operation and maintenance of DLD Park with hopes that the use of the funds could be expanded in the future. Our hope is to utilize some of this funding in the future toward various items that will enrich and expand not only the baseball and softball interest for the kids but other activities. The Banner Sponsorship program has an initial year investment and then the sponsor is engaged for an additional 5 years. The vision of the banner program was to not only help our local and regional businesses market themselves, but that the kids while at the complex will make the connection as to where the additional support comes for the facility. Some ideas which have been shared to help with networking is to have a sponsor appreciation night and other such activities to promote business and player involvement. A community must work together toward supporting the next generation (our youth). In so doing, the businesses and residents are lifted up and encouraged.
Will all four fields be used at the same time?
Todd: Yes, at times it will be. It’s going to ease a lot of scheduling. There could be four fields used one night and one field used the next. This is going to free it up, so the kids have more time to play.
Will any other events outside of the youth softball and baseball be held out at the park?
Jeff: In the past, there were multiple partnerships working together to ensure that football, baseball, softball, and soccer were supported in Sutton even though the logistics were spread out across town. The DLD Park will centralize the softball and baseball into one complex. We will be investigating avenues to enhance the DLD Park’s use by other teams and communities, which will complement our own league’s schedule. The new soccer field location is placed next to the parking lot (outside the complex). The soccer location will continue to develop over time, but is technically not part of the DLD Park; but, we are happy it will be ready for next year’s soccer season.
Todd: If it has the word baseball or softball in it, then yes. We’ve had a few other towns reach out to us who are interested in hosting their tournaments in Sutton. There’s a few others interested in using the park in the fall as well.
Are there any other sports that will be held at DLD Park?
Jeff: The DLD Park (complex) is specifically for baseball/softball use. The bigger question which I have heard is, “what are other recreational possibilities that are being considered for that general area.” Sutton leaders have done a good job at adding recreational activities in our parks and town. With community feedback being received for our Vision Implementation Plan, we can see potential ideas that might be able to be pursued in the future in the larger area next to DLD Park. Some of these ideas are, but are not limited to walking trail connected to the existing one (to make a loop), adding historical and education aspects to a biking/walking trail, Frisbee golf course, roller blade area, or a picnic area next to pond. A lot of this will depend on community input and the Strategic Planning (VIP) team. As mentioned before, during the construction of the DLD Park an additional area (120,000 sq./feet) was leveled and planted to grass in order to be set aside for a new soccer field location. This is located on the east side of the main parking lot for the DLD Park. There will be future enhancements to that area over the next few years, but it was imperative to establish an alternative location for soccer games and practice. This location made since because of its proximity to the DLD Park, future streets, and parking lot area. There is about 15 acres of ground north of the parking lot as well. The purpose of this land has not yet been determined; but, again we are hoping that our Sutton VIP process will provide some direction for its ultimate use in the future.
Todd: Not on the complex, the complex is softball baseball only. We are developing soccer fields east of the parking lot for DLD Park.
What’s the vision of what DLD Park will look like thru the summer?
Jeff: Our long-term hope is to see more teams, more tournaments, more visitors to Sutton, more regional use of the complex by other communities and more activities which complement the softball and baseball season. Having more involvement between the businesses, residents, visitors and teams with the sport itself, is a key vision for the park. Also, we hope to encourage growth of the community itself through this new complex being developed in an area. It could bring in more homes for families or businesses looking for a unique location setting. Ultimately, this complex provides opportunity for growth in many different ways.
Todd: I’m hoping it will get more kids out and bring kids from a 30 mile radius to town if their town doesn’t have a team. Then they can come over here and play with the Sutton kids. This is a great complex for the town of Sutton!
Will the fields be available for adult teams?
Jeff: We’d just need to consider schedules, but I would encourage this. Field #2 (softball field) was built with adaptability in mind. It can be adjusted for both youth and adult softball league play.
Todd: If someone wants to organize a slow pitch league, they can.
What are you going to do with the old Legion field?
Jeff: Right now, we are gathering some ideas from our Strategic Planning (VIP) team and the community for its long-term use. Our intention is to continue to use it as a backup field for baseball, soccer, and football (if needed by the school) for at least one more year. I must applaud the community and businesses which did such a great job in updating the Legion field over many years. Our plan is to place some historical pictures and items at the new field, so the Legion field will always be remembered.
Todd: It will stay as it is. However it won’t be maintained as heavily as it was in the past. It will still be used if the baseball team brings in a tournament.
Is there a plan to add batting cages to the complex?
Jeff: There were several add-on items included in the plan that required additional funds from the City to install. Yes – I feel we will add batting cages at some time, but we wanted to ensure we had all the basic necessities first. We will be adding certain items to enhance the fields in the future.
Will there be someone fulltime working at DLD Park?
Jeff: Absolutely. The job of maintaining the complex will require full-time dedication by at least one person during the season. We are also looking at incorporating some of the scheduling and coordination activities for DLD Park with another new position – Deputy Clerk/Treasurer.
Where are the patrons from outside of Sutton (visitors) going to eat?
Jeff: Currently, there are some incredible places to eat in Sutton. Like most rural areas, some established restaurants have owners that are ready to retire and transition their business. Young entrepreneurs are needed to make the next step into these already established ‘landmark’ restaurants or help create their own. Sutton is very fortunate to still have 4 to 5 local (grab-n-go or sit-down) establishments.
Todd: That goes back to economic development and the strategic planning process and what we’re doing to bring businesses into town.
How are you planning on bringing people into town with DLD Park outside of town?
Jeff: Information and marketing is the key. Through various marketing sources, the City of Sutton will work in unison with other groups to help direct people through the heart of town to get to the complex. We will make every effort to create signage that will help make it easier for travelers to reach DLD Park. When visitors come to see the games, we will be encouraging them in many ways, to stop in our town for services and goods. Looking at ways to create a “destination” for visitors to feel compelled to shop is a continual job for the city, chamber and the businesses as well.
Todd: We will try to get people to come thru main street area and turn at the park corner. That’s how we’re going to tell people to come to town so they can stay on pavement. The banners will help show what’s available in town.
Is there going to be a separating fence between the ball fields and the Co-Op?
Jeff: There has been some discussion to either a possible tree line and/or fence. In my opinion, a tree break may be the better solution. The fence around the complex will be for each field, but will also have enclosures between each to secure and enclose the entire complex. First priority was constructing the fields, complex and having the necessary equipment to maintain the complex and be usable for patrons. We are keeping our mind open to additional enhancements and the same time trying to be frugal with sales tax dollars raised for the complex and other future recreational projects.
Will the ponds be stocked for the kids between games?
Jeff: Yes, the pond which is located on the east side of the new soccer field location is already stocked with fish each year by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Will there be a playground at DLD Park for the kids?
Jeff: We are open to this possibility. The Park Committee has discussed the idea of trying to focus on addressing handicap issues at the city park first and looking at additional ways to improve that location. Again, the council and Park Committee are waiting for direction from the community through the VIP process.
Are there plans on paving any of the roads out to the complex? What about the viaduct?
Todd: That is a county issue for the road and Burlington Northern owns the Viaduct.
Jeff: The Street (road) on the property to the complex, for right now, will have crushed concrete. With ideas from the strategic plan and other possible development out in that area, we could possible see street and curb development in the future.
Who is maintaining the fields?
Jeff: The plan right now is to have a full time, seasonal person hired through the City of Sutton to be dedicated to the care of the fields and complex. Additional items needed for the complex will most likely be professionally contracted or supplemented by work performed by departments of the City of Sutton.
What’s the evacuation plan for emergency weather?
Jeff: Prior to any game or practice, coaches and emergency personnel will monitor the weather forecasts to determine if activities need to be postponed or cancelled. The complex is close enough to the existing emergency siren to allow for an alert to be heard by all at the complex. Clay County Emergency Management has solicited support from CodeRED, which is a national phone, text, and e-mail alert system for subscribers located in Sutton or traveling through our area. These precautionary and pre-storm warnings alerts should make any visitor or person at the complex feel safe and comfortable. The initial VIP process has brought up ideas that could provide added protective measures for citizens at the facility and the entire town. These will most definitely be investigated and reviewed.
Todd: In the past, the police and fire department has always come up and let us know a storm was coming and everyone needed to leave. Neither of the old fields had a place to go. Of all the places I’ve coached, there has not been a designated area for people to go to during an emergency caused weather.