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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Workers haul away debris from Bruce Field in Kearns, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. The old baseball field is being demolished to make way for a multipurpose field and playground.
We’re turning it into a park with soccer fields and turn what has really been a drain on the community … into an asset where the community can come together. —Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams

KEARNS — Bruce Field was once the focal point of family activities

But, with no public funding, the weeds grew as fast as the graffiti. Instead of drawing people for sporting events, it became a place that attracted crime.

On Wednesday, heavy equipment was brought in to begin the demolition of the dilapidated park at 4290 W. 4865 South in hope of bringing new life to the area.

The 4-acre parcel was the home to baseball leagues dating back to the 1950s.

“This is a park where children of all ages first swung a bat at a ball and first caught their first pop fly, and you can hear the echoes of that today in the ghosts of the past,” said Patrick Leary, Salt Lake County township executive.

The field dates back to World War II, when soldiers at Camp Kearns used to play on the land. In 1965, the property was donated to the Kearns Pony League.

Things have changed over the years. As the popularity of baseball leagues has dwindled, the park has fallen into disrepair and become a magnet for neighborhood crime.

In June 2011, someone deliberately started a fire in a garbage can behind the snack shack. Money from the food and drink sales helped keep the park operating. All that remained was a charred wooden shell.

“We have a lot of crime in this area — a bad element that are using the weeds in this field to conduct criminal activities,” Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said.

But that's about to change.

“We’re turning it into a park with soccer fields and turn what has really been a drain on the community … into an asset where the community can come together,” McAdams said.

The revitalization project is a collaboration between the Salt Lake County Mayor's Office, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, Unified Police Department, Kearns Pony Baseball League and the Honorary Colonels Association.

Winder said a group of community members, known as Honorary Colonels, committed to giving their time, financial support and subject matter expertise to projects that will improve public safety. The group also and provided more than $30,000 in pro bono legal assistance and cash donations, including paying for the cost of the demolition.

“Finally, individuals stepped forward in a collective way,” Winder said, “and I can tell you that in a few months, you’re going to come out here and see a pristine park that will be serving a community in need.”

The Kearns Pony League donated the land to the county in exchange for Township Services’ project management and a $1 million investment in the Kearns community, as well as Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation’s expertise in developing the park.

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“Now we can send it over to them, and they’ll be able to maintain it and take care of it year-round,” said Leslie DeJong, longtime president of the Kearns Pony League.

Demolition is the first step in the transition to a new multipurpose field and playground.

Demolition began Wednesday on the existing fence, dugout, bleachers and asphalt in the old baseball field. The existing playground equipment will be preserved and installed in the new park.

The new field and playground will open to the public by summer 2015.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: kmccord@deseretnews.com