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We've made the most of poor Little League site; now it's time to do better

Mar 26, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

If I were planning new Little League baseball fields in Riverton, just about the last place I would build them is where our fields -- the Ron Saban Little League Complex -- are today.

Even Ron Saban, for whom the complex is named, realizes that the current location is not the most conducive place in town for a sports complex.

But there our four ball diamonds are, on the east edge of the city, just north of the sewer plant, west of the fermenting compost pits and south of the garbage baling facility. And, recall, that our kids' cleats rest on fields that are built atop the old landfill that lies decaying, but covered, just a few feet below.

Even though the city has done its very best to mitigate foul odors and monitor the dangerous methane gas nearby, it still stinks many spring and summer days. The smell is caused by one of two sources -- and I don't mean roses.

And that is sad, because over the years, and from the very beginning, so many, many good people have worked so very hard to make the complex as good as it can possibly be.

Saban remembers that there was a movement to consolidate Riverton's neighborhood ball parks back in the late 1970s and early 1980s and that a group of interested parents, including Frank Mathson and others, worked with the city, saved money as they could, got support from the community and the recreation board, and built the fields our kids play on today.

"There were a lot of dollars involved," Saban said, "I was happy to get what we got, but it was the cheap way to go."

So we really have to admire our league board members, managers, coaches and especially families and players who, year after year, make the best of what isn't the best of situations in what is still one of Riverton's largest and longest-running youth programs.

This year the challenges for the Little League board include trying to replace outfield grass they feel is dangerous, improving the poor field drainage, update the aging sprinkler system, reconfigure the T-ball field, where the outfield is sinking, move some bleachers, and, at the top of the list, try and make the three fields that will be used for the Little League District tournaments in July as good and safe as they can.

It's admirable that our Little League volunteers made a pitch, and a commitment, to bring 16 teams to Riverton for three days in July given the work that will fall on their shoulders to get ready for the tournament.

Our community will certainly benefit, and we should be grateful.

Let's make sure that when Little League reaches out to us for our fiscal and volunteer support that we're ready to help again this year. If you have a child in the league, help when it is your turn.

Wisely, our city has decided to form a committee to look at the future of Riverton City Park.

Maybe it's a good time to step back, inventory all of our outdoor parks and facilities, and commit to developing a master plan to manage, rehabilitate and improve all of our recreational assets. Those of us who have worked hard season after season just getting our fields ready for that night's games have little time (nor the expertise) for long-term planning. Youth sports boards, by their nature, are transitory as kids "age out" to other programs.

The City of Laramie is working with an 11-member ad hoc committee to plan green-space development in its community for the next 30 years.

Such long-term vision here could yield a decision, among other things, that it is time to start planning the move of the Ron Saban Complex.

Saban sums it up best, "I'm always for improvement for the kids."

But it is really for all of us, and we can do better.

Have a great sports week.

Go Big Red!

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