Crystal: Let there be lights

The Crystal Little League fields will be brighter officials call “batter up” for the 2013 season.

With help from fundraising efforts, West Metro Fire and Relief Association and two grants, the Crystal Little League Association was able to go ahead with plans to erect lights at two of the three little league fields. CR17NWlights

There are more than 220 Little League players that make up 21 teams in Crystal. Boys and girls ages 5-12 have the opportunity to play on either A-Minor, Rookie (B-Minor) or the Majors team.

“The A-Minor and Major fields now have lights,” said Sara Thurston, fundraising and public relations chair for the association. “The games on those fields are more competitive and the practices are more intense as far as time and structure goes.”

Past start times have been at 5 and 7 p.m. to complete games before darkness fell. Thurston said there were times when teams were only able to play four out of six innings.

With the addition of the lights, Thurston said games and practices will hopefully begin at 5:30 p.m., allowing parents more time to get home from work before bringing their children to the fields.

Players will also see an increased advantage to a lighted field because they will be able to play a full six-inning game.

“They’re going to have more playing and practice time and that will make them better players,” Thurston said. “They will be able to play more innings and then children will have more playing time.”

About three years ago, the association began to make strides toward lighting. However, they knew if there were any chance of their field of dreams to become reality, it would require raising $190,000.

A $20,000 donation from the West Metro Fire and Relief Association kicked off the fundraising, Thurston said. Additional funds were raised by raffle tickets and an increase sales at concession stands, but that still left a large chunk to be raised.

“We knew grants were out there that we would try and get, or at least apply for,” Thurston said. “We just had no idea we would get them so soon.”

The association was able to secure a $115,000 grant from the Hennepin County Youth Sports Grant program and a $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund grant.

With $40,000 remaining to raise, the association turned to the Crystal City Council. A financial agreement was reached that allowed the association to obtain funds at a low interest rate.

Thurston said the goal was to have lights by the spring of 2014; however, being able to raise funds faster than originally thought has pushed the project a year ahead.

In December, all of the poles were erected and the wiring was secured. The lights will be ready to flood the field opening day May 4.

“We’re just really exciting and hope it really draws kids from Crystal to play Little League baseball,” Thurston said. “We are really excited to get kids out there and to get going with the season.”

Contact Anna Woodwick at anna.woodwick@ecm-inc.com

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