GREENFIELD — It’s been a long time since the Indiana Bandits enjoyed a home-field advantage, but a new deal could put the ball club on home turf by next season and provide a place where youth baseball can flourish.
The city of Greenfield has agreed to allow an association comprised of the Indiana Bandits and Greenfield Youth Baseball Association to develop a multi-field diamond complex at Franklin Park, located at 1440 N. Franklin Road behind Greenfield Central Junior High School.
According to current plans, the project will be developed in phases, the first of which will include five ball fields of varying sizes. One dimension will feature a 345-foot centerfield fence with 325 feet down each foul line.
Ultimately, the 27-acre complex will contain a dozen fields, including at temporary field, restrooms, shelter, concession area, parking and playground.
The arrangement, principals say, benefits all parties to the agreement.
“It’s a great project for the community,” Greenfield Utilities Director Mike Fruth said. “It’s good for the city’s youth – baseball is big here.”
Additionally, the Bandits, a youth developmental baseball league, will play host to tournaments that bring other travel and developmental teams, parents and followers to the area.
“That kind of programming brings people into the community,” Fruth said. “So it’s a form of economic development.”
“We really do believe this will bring a huge economic impact to the city of Greenfield, primarily driven by the Bandits, but by us, too,” said GYBA president Mike Hubert.
Bandits president Ron Roberts said tournaments put on by the organization will bring players and parents who will stay in area hotels, eat at local restaurants and pump recreational dollars into the local economy.
GYBA has focused primarily on recreational baseball through Little League and Babe Ruth League programs, since its inception in the early 1970s, Hubert said.
Some 90 percent of GYBA’s 400 to 500 players are from Greenfield, Hubert said, and with revenue generated from the use of the new complex, Hubert said the economic impact might also trickle down to reduced fees to play recreational summertime ball as well.
Playing for years at Riley Park, Hubert said GYBA has expanded beyond capacity there, and recent flooding issues and limited parking had the organization looking for a new place to play.
The Bandits have been looking for a new home as well.
A bid by the organization in the summer of 2013 to construct a baseball complex on CR 250W near Philadelphia was turned away by the county board of zoning appeals after residents there objected to the proposal.
Hancock County’s youth developmental league left its original home on North Fortville Pike in 2012 and has been scrambling for places to play since then.
“I was following the Bandits’ (proposed project), so I called a buddy of mine who was on the Bandits’ board and asked if there would be any interest in at least talking about the Bandits and the GYBA partnering up for the betterment of both groups and get this thing developed,” Hubert said.
“We’re blessed,” Roberts said. “The way it’s worked out, and the way GYBA has worked out, they’ve been awesome.”
The complex will develop land the city leased from the Greenfield-Central schools in 2010 for 50 years.
In exchange for the city’s lease on the Franklin Park property, the school corporation leased city-owned Mary Moore Park, which is just north of Greenfield-Central High School. The school system turned it into a nature park and outdoor education center.
Under the new agreement, the city will extend McClarnon Drive along the south side of the school to the park’s east line. The association will cover the cost of further extensions through the complex.
The city will also provide utilities, including water, sanitary and storm sewers and electric service, with monthly utility costs covered by the association.
Other than funding access and utilities to the property, all other costs, including programming, maintenance and construction, will be funded by the association, which will create an independent board comprised of individuals from each baseball group to oversee the complex, association officials say.
While the project has the necessary approvals to move forward, final construction plans will require approval by the appropriate city departments, Fruth said.
“We were hoping to get started this fall, but it will more likely be in the spring,” Hubert said. “If the weather’s just right, we might be able to move some dirt this winter.”
The groups are now in the process of raising money to fund the $1 million to $1.5 million project as well as develop sponsorship opportunities, Roberts said.
“It’s going to be a first-class facility,” he said. “We wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t.”