By Chris Bavender
For almost four generations, Zionsville has had a strong Little League history. A host of players have passed through Lions Park earning runs and making memories since the charter was established in 1953. Now, Zionsville is hoping to expand on that, as the town is one of five finalists for the new home of Little League International’s Central Region Headquarters.
“We have one of the largest and oldest little league charters in the state. Baseball is engrained in our community,” said Mike Rinebold, one of the key organizers in the effort to bring the headquarters to the community. “That really was on display last year when the high school baseball team made it to the state finals. Half of that team played Little League. It’s just the fabric of Zionsville.”
Other finalists include Grand Park in Westfield, Plainfield and two sites in Illinois near Chicago.
Zionsville started working on its proposal last fall. Rinebold and others traveled to Warner Robins, Ga., which landed the Southeastern Region Headquarters in 2008 after it moved from Florida.
“My conversation with their CFO made me believe they would be a good model to follow,” Rinebold said. “It was a great day,and we really learned a lot.”
As part of its application, a video featuring the town and its residents was created.
“We worked with the Boone County Economic Development Corp., the chamber, the convention and visitors bureau, the town council, the schools — all of the community players are a part of this,” Rinebold said.
Landing the Central Region Headquarters would not only be a win for Zionsville and Boone County and its communities, but for northwest Indianapolis, Rinebold said.
“It would be drawing from that region, not just the Zionsville community, even statewide really, when you talk about the volunteers needed to run that type of tournament,” Rinebold said. “We are talking about 5,000 spectators for one week of baseball and one week softball – all here.”
And, while a boon for the community and surrounding areas, it’s the kids Rinebold said who will benefit the most.
“With our numbers in Little League – 700 to 800 boys and girls every year in baseball and softball – we are busting at the seams in Lions Park, and that is with nine fields,” he said. “This would give us four more fields that we would have full-time access to and control year round. And the fifth one would be the stadium field with 2,500 seats and a hill in the background that can hold another 2,000 to 2,5000. Can you imagine growing up with that in your back yard?”
Lions Park would continue to be a part of the mix, however.
“Nothing changes. They and Little League are bound together,” Rinebold said. “In fact, opening night is 6 p.m. (April 21). All the kids plus families at one time at Lions Park – it’s a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.”
A site visit by Little League officials will happen in May or June with the winning city announced in November. The first baseball and softball games would be played on the new fields in August 2019.
To watch the video, visit cominghometozionsville.org.