City, 23 Club seeking grant to fund improvements at baseball park
SCOTTSBLUFF — With a Feb. 15 grant submission deadline approaching, Scottsbluff has forwarded documentation to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for renovation of the city’s 23 Club Baseball Park.
The city and 23 Club is asking the NDED’s Community and Civic Center Financing Fund program for $603,927 to help with capital construction to update the 40-year-old facility.
Under the grant requirements, Scottsbluff and 23 Club will match the grant with $761,220 in both cash and in-kind services. So far, $328,000 has been secured from numerous community foundations and corporate sponsors, while about $275,000 is still pending.
Geoff Nemnich, president of the 23 Club Babe Ruth League, told city council members at their Monday meeting that if the grant is awarded, the city will be notified in March.
“Then the state will put together a contract date to complete the project,” Nemnich said. “It will essentially be from Aug. 1, 2019, and finished by May 1 of 2020. It’s during that time when we have to come up with the matching funds.”
The estimated total budget for the project is just under $1.4 million.
Nemnich said the letter going to the NDED didn’t require the city to show anything other than plans are in place to assure funding will be available.
“If the state approves the grant, this will be a no-brainer,” he said. “The funds will be available. The 23 Club will be responsible for raising about $490,000 of the project. We already have about $140,000 of that raised and have another $200,000 pledged from companies waiting for the grant to go through.”
He also assured council members that if the grant is turned down, none of the numbers are binding. The 23 Club organization would just need to wait until next year to reapply.
“We don’t have that amount of money budgeted during the current fiscal year,” said Scottsbluff City Manager Nathan Johnson. “We have to show a line item on the application so we made a notation the funding is subject to budget negotiations for next year. We don’t think it’s a hindrance to applying for the grant. We have a strong application and hopefully, we can work with the NDED.”
He said the process might include paying the grant match through the 23 Club’s fund with the Oregon Trail Community Foundation before the city budgets its part of the match.
“The city’s getting a $1.3 million brand new park for $285,000, which is a pretty big deal.” Nemnich said. “Letters of support for the project have been huge from community organizations. They’ve come from the school board, the tourism board and multiple large businesses around town.”
The City of Scottsbluff hasn’t applied for this kind of NDED grant for more than 10 years. Nemnich said that should give the application more priority with the state because most of the grants have been awarded to eastern Nebraska communities.
Johnson said the city has already been spending some funds on the project, including an architect’s rendering for a new complex and identifying additional funding sources to get the project completed.
The current 23 Club baseball complex is all gravel and is full of safety hazards, according to information presented at the council meeting. The bleachers are old and there is no protection from foul balls and tripping hazards. There are also no concrete sidewalks or ramps to accommodate handicap accessibility.