RIVERTON — Parents, coaches and players said they were surprised to learn that the baseball fields that play host to more than 1,700 kids will be torn down this summer to make room for a park.
Utah Select Baseball, a competitive youth baseball league, uses the fields for games every night and many Saturdays for their spring and fall seasons.
But Riverton officials made the decision to eliminate the five remaining fields (two were eliminated previously) and turn the area into a passive park with pavilions, cooking areas and places for residents to picnic.
Jeff Hawker, Riverton's assistant city manager, said nearby C.R. Hamilton Park sports complex was constructed in anticipation of elminating the fields at Riverton Park so there would not be a net loss to the city.
The sports complex has seven baseball fields, four football fields, and a concession stand. The park also has an indoor pavilion that can be used for private functions.
Utah Select Baseball Director Brandon Riley said his league, which contracts with the city, will have to make drastic changes if it cannot find a new place for the fall season.
Riley said the league hasn't been able to play at the C.R. Hamilton fields because he says they are already at full capacity.
Hawker said Riverton city officials believe there is an underserved population of residents that would like to have a passive park experience.
According to 2010 census data, 37.8 percent of Riverton's 38,753 population is 18 years old and younger.
Of the league of 1,700 players, about 300 are Riverton residents and the rest are from neighboring cities, Riley said.
That is one of the reasons city officials said they wanted to create a new park.
"Particularly where most of these players don't even live in Riverton, it isn't the responsibility of Riverton to make sure they have a place to play," Hawker said.
The city is supportive of baseball he said but "it's important to keep in mind always that these are businesses and we owe a primary responsibility to our citizens first."
The league and Riverton city have an agreement for the use of the fields — an agreement Riley said goes through the end of this year.
Hawker said the contract between the city and the league allows either party to give a 30-day notice of cancellation. Hawker confirmed that the city had yet to give the league formal notice that the contract will end and the fields torn down.
"I don’t doubt that they’re within their legal rights to do what they’re doing," Riley said. "It’s more along the moral side of things and what’s right for these kids.”
Treyson Cannon, 11, said he plays on the same field where his dad and grandpa used to play and he's concerned there will be nowhere else for him to play his third base, pitcher and left field positions.
“And what else is there to do?” he asked. “I don’t really want to sit at home and play video games all day. I want to play baseball and sports.”
Kellar Lewis, 11, said he hopes to play baseball in high school and college, and said he needs the practice at the fields.
"(Losing the fields) means I won't be able to play as many games so I will not get as good," he said.
In the Riverton monthly newsletter for June, the city announced the fields will be closed for renovation in late August or early September. The baseball league is scheduled to begin its fall league with about 80 teams on August 20th.
"A little notice would have been nice, a little dialogue would have been nice,” Riley said.
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