Despite skies that produced rain throughout much of the morning, a giant step toward a bright summer was taken Saturday, May 1 when Rockford Little League (RLL) began its season with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at East Rockford Middle School (ERMS). The skies cleared in time for the ceremony, which officially opened the district’s new athletic facilities at that location. The complex was planned and developed through a cooperative effort between the Rockford Public Schools (RPS) and Rockford Little League.
This year RLL provides opportunities for over 800 area youngsters between the ages of 5 and 18 to participate in one of more than 70 T-ball, softball and baseball teams. The Rockford league’s affiliation with the National Little League program offers many advantages, including safety and educational programs, mandatory requirements for safety equipment, rule guidelines, insurance options, and others.
The new complex at ERMS includes nine softball and baseball fields. It was funded by the passage of a bond issue in May 2008, which also provided funds for many other improvements throughout the district. RLL also contributed funds for some equipment at the facility, and will be making an additional investment in the form of a permanent building that will house a concession stand, storage area, and restrooms. The league also helps defray school district costs related to the complex by helping with the maintenance of the fields.
The opening ceremony started with the presentation of colors by a color guard from the Merritt Lamb American Legion Post 102, and the playing of the National Anthem by a brass quartet from Rockford High School.
Warren Lanphear, RLL president, then addressed the crowd with a few remarks in which he thanked the RLL board members for their hard work and the community as a whole for their generous support of the funding that made this “field of dreams” possible. He recounted years spent by the league trying to develop and execute a plan for such a project, and thanked the RPS for their cooperation in making the complex a reality.
Lanphear’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Michael Shibler, superintendent of RPS, who also spoke at the ceremony. Shibler applauded both the RLL and the entire Rockford community, saying that he has never witnessed such a spirit of cooperation between schools, parents and a community, as that which exists in Rockford, and that they should all be proud of the accomplishments that they continue to see throughout the district.
RLL board treasurer Debbie Hagedorn then cut the ribbon that officially opened the ERMS baseball and softball complex as other board members and many RLL players and their families looked on.
After the ribbon-cutting, the focus of the crowd was understandably the Corner Bar tent where hot dogs were provided at no charge. Since nothing goes with a ball game better than a hot dog, that was a welcome and fitting finale for a morning which celebrated the achievement of a long dream for RLL and a terrific accomplishment by the league, the schools, and every Rockford citizen whose support made it possible.
It should be noted that the passage of the May 2008 bond issue funded not only the nine ball fields at ERMS, but other upgrades and additions to both athletic and educational facilities throughout the district as well. In fact, the improved athletic facilities, while being the most visible of the projects, represent just a small portion of the improvements and upgrades to both educational and athletic facilities that were made possible by the bond issue.
Only 13 percent of the funds generated by the bond issue were used for athletic facilities. Other district-wide benefits include expansion of buildings and parking, purchase of band program equipment, upgrading of science and computer labs, playground equipment, sound, broadcast, auditorium, and multimedia equipment, plus improved security and expanded technology for the staff and the entire student body including special needs students.