We’re not exactly sure how the bargain developed over the years, but in Brookfield, baseball fields are owned by the village in name only. In reality, the village’s Little League organization is the real owner of the fields.
The league manicures the fields and keeps them in tip-top playing condition. Lighting? The league paid for that. Dugouts? The league paid for those. Heck, when the west Little League field at Jaycee/Ehlert Park underwent a complete overhaul a few years ago, the $14,000 bill was paid for by Little League.
Now Little League and Riverside-Brookfield High School are pitching a plan to transform the east field at Ehlert Park into a competition-worthy softball field that will be home to both Brookfield National Little League softball and the Riverside-Brookfield High School softball program.
The bill to complete the improvements is expected to be in the $10,000 range and will be paid for through a combination of the high school (and maybe the booster club) and Little League.
All of this free upkeep of their fields has been a great deal for the village of Brookfield. The village has put very little money into these fields over the years and yet they are some of the nicest in the area. That’s a tribute to the dedication of the Brookfield Little League program.
We wonder, however, how all of this is going to play out in the future should Brookfield ever move forward with its master plan for Jaycee/Ehlert Park, which includes a complete re-alignment of the ball fields there.
After plunking down tens of thousands through the years to get the fields just the way they want them, we can’t imagine that Little League (and now the high school) is going to cede their territorial rights to those fields quietly. They certainly have earned those rights, and the village has been more than happy to cede control to the league.
Of course, that phase of the Ehlert Park project is not on the drawing table right now. Such a plan would cost hundreds of thousands, we’re guessing, and the money is not exactly in the budget.
However, Brookfield has found grants in recent years for other elements of the Ehlert master plan and it is, in fact, inching forward. Before sinking good money into those fields, Little League might want some assurances about the return they’re likely to get on that investment.
The league is also contemplating building a scorer’s booth over at the east field, so the transformation of the east field into a top-notch softball facility is no small effort for them.
The village will be more than happy to take the league’s and the school’s money to improve their fields. But when push comes to shove, the fields are owned by the village, and that master plan for the park is no idle concept. As the village has shown, they’re already working to make it a reality.