In the beginning, there was baseball.
Or so it seems, especially in Ketchikan.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has placed Proposition 2 before voters in Tuesday’s municipal election.
The bond measure requests voter approval for $6.6 million to update baseball and softball fields throughout the community.
The bulk of the field improvements would occur at Norman Walker Field in Bear Valley where Ketchikan High School displays its talents. American Legion Baseball utilizes the field, as well.
Most notable at Walker Field would be the installation of artificial turf to replace the gravel upon which generations of Ketchikan’s youth fielded the ball. A new drainage system would eliminate the rain pooling on the field, and a modern light system would enable play later into the evenings and for more months of the year.
Additionally, a new grandstand and new restrooms would be built, and all would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for $3.5 million of the total.
The Drency Dudley Field by the high school would receive similar improvements — including a drainage system, seating, lighting and turf — as the home field for the Kayhi girls softball team and Ketchikan Little League teams for $2.5 million of the total.
Houghtaling Elementary School’s field access also would be improved upon, amounting to $632,500.
The bond would be paid through the borough’s Recreation Capital Improvement Project Fund, which is designated for recreational facilities. One-fifth of the borough’s 2.5% sales tax is deposited into the fund.
The community has raised about $60,000 toward field upgrades, which Sen. Bert Stedman told the Daily News showed significant community support. Stedman has had the fields high on his list for state capital project funds. However, the Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy aren’t agreeing on much in the financial realm at present and state funding is unlikely.
But, Stedman also pointed out that Sitka, where he lives, had a remarkable response among youth after it upgraded its field much like Ketchikan hopes to. The number of participants and the length of field use increased measurably.
That is a key point in regard to this ballot measure. It is designed not to require new or increase existing local taxes, but it has the potential effect of attracting increased participation both by players and support staff.
If kids and adults are “playing ball,” they are less likely to be involved in activities that require law enforcement or health care responses.
They have an opportunity to pursue an athletic passion, to learn and hone new talents and skills, to develop a sense of fair play and good sportsmanship, and, of course, to blow off steam in a healthy way while exercising, all of which will serve them throughout their lives. They also acquire mentors and make longtime friendships.
A kid who falls into a habit with alcohol and other mind-altering substances can cost a community hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. At that rate, it doesn’t take too many kids to spend the amount that would be used on the fields if the bond measure passes.
And both alcohol and illegal drug use are severe issues in Ketchikan.
Ketchikan has done well with its public facilities through the years. Whether one voted in favor of them all or, instead, lobbied for state funding to upgrade and expand and/or build them, the community has maintained its hospital, fire houses, library, museum, and port and harbors, and in conjunction with private enterprise enhancements, the First City is first class.
With passage of Ballot Measure 2, Ketchikan won’t be building a Globe field like the Texas Rangers enjoy, either. But, there would be a world of difference in local fields.
A vote for Measure 2 is a good investment in the community.