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Jerusalem Township officials have dreamed of having their own recreation complex for over a decade, if not longer. Now, they’ll have it.

Tuesday, a private/public partnership broke ground for two baseball diamonds and two soccer fields on a 10-acre property adjacent to Jerusalem Elementary School. Construction is expected to begin immediately and the fields will be available for use next spring.

“We all know this has been a long process trying to get this rolling prior to (trustee) David (Bench) and I,” trustee Ron Sheehan said. “We went through some trials and tribulations to get this where it’s at.”

The township has its own recreation department, which is funded by a recreation levy. Bench said Jerusalem Elementary, which had drainage problems, will also benefit from the project.

JerusalemRec
At the groundbreaking for the new Jerusalem Township recreation complex are Matt Smithers, Recreation Advisory Boards Chairman, Joe Kiss, Trustee, Bob Graham, re board, P.J. Kapfhammer, Maumee Bay Turf Center, Ron Sheahan, trustee chaiman, Dave Bench, trustee, Brad Morrison, Maumee Bay Turf Center, Julie Vincent, rec board, Patty Smithers, rec board, Jim Measel, rec board, front row, Mike Skitowski, rec director and Joey Skitowski. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)

“We tiled the parks so we can get the ball diamonds in the back of Jerusalem School,” Bench said. “We also tiled the school property, per se, so the playground wasn’t all lake. I’m just so happy for the kids of Jerusalem Township and this is just a win-win process.”

Mike Skitowski, who has served as recreation director for three years, credits Bench for the push to get the job done.

“It’s just been a push,” Skitowski said. “Ron and Dave have really both been integral, but it was Dave who said, ‘Let’s do it — let’s push, push, push. If you’re pushing, I’m pushing and we’ll get it done.”

Trustee Joe Kiss agreed with Skitowski. Even through the project’s originations dates back at least 15 years, trustees say, it took Bench to get the momentum started.

“David was really the big starting point,” Kiss said. “The trustees worked together well and really the rec board deserves a lot of credit to stay on it. There were some tough times — some tough hurdles to cross and we just finally were able to cross them. The dream is going to finally get here and it really is the combination of a lot of groups of individuals working together and getting it done.”

Business donations help

The project cost for the four fields is estimated at $30,000, but construction is being donated by Maumee Bay Turf Center of Oregon.

“We actually put bids out, and they were actually the lowest, but then all of a sudden they came and said they were going to do it for a donation,” Bench said. “We’re going to pay them the full amount, $30,000, and then they are going to give us a quarter (25 percent) back right away, and then every year after that we get a quarter of it back.”

P.J. Kapfhammer of Maumee Bay Turf cited the celebration going on Tuesday and said, “This is a perfect example of why we are doing this. This is a perfect marriage for our company and we know how badly this community has wanted it. Our belief is if you have a good, strong sports program you’ll have a good community. We know this is a hard working community and we know you’ll take care of it.

“You guys have done all the hard work,” Kapfhammer continued. “I know all the passion you guys have had to get this done and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”
Brad Morrison of Maumee Bay Turf added, “We’re excited to help. This community is a neat community with a lot of neat possibilities.”

Recreation board member Bob Graham directed his attention to six individuals involved in the groundbreaking, including Maumee Bay Turf representatives.

“This has been an ongoing process for me long before (former recreation director) Lonnie Hart’s time, but for whatever reason there has always been a roadblock,” Graham said. “Some of us parents should tip our hats to the six of you up there. As a business, it shows your dedication to the youth and values of what you believe in. This is awesome.”

Skitowski says it will make his job easier. Previously, Jerusalem Rec played games at the only field available located on the adjacent elementary school’s property and other locations around the township, plus it partners with Oregon Recreation. In addition, with the closing of Wynn Elementary, many of those students will be coming to Jerusalem, making the demand even stronger.

“We typically keep our Jerusalem teams separated because the kids know each other,” Skitowski said. “We go from two t-ball teams, two coach pitch teams, and the typical boys’ baseball and girls’ softball. We do have some the older kids as well. We will have, I would say, anywhere from 10 to 15 teams using these fields. It will be getting a lot of use. Then with soccer, altogether, there will be at least a handful of soccer clubs.”

Adjacent to the property being developed are two other lots — one about 10 acres and the other eight acres owned by the township that are available to expand the complex to more than double its size when needed.

“We want (programs) to just keep building. We do own a lot more of this property and the original plans were to build four diamonds but we scaled back to get started and monitor the usage and we can see from there,” Skitowski said.

That partnership with Oregon will continue, Skitowski said, but it will help to have new fields with state of the art drainage in place in the township. In addition, one diamond will be a larger and will allow for adjustment from 60 to 75 foot base paths.

“Being a coach out here, I see kids playing on the grass and this will be a nice improvement,” Skitowski said. “The donation from Maumee Bay will be a nice marriage, like P.J. said.”

Skitowski, a school teacher in the Oregon system, says the district has been a solid partner, also.

“The schools have been very helpful with the use of the parking lot and everything,” Skitowski said. “No barriers to jump with those guys. The school will have access to these diamonds and the soccer fields during the day so the phys-ed teachers and their students can come out and play.”

Bench said another local business has announced it will donate bleachers.

“People have just been coming left and right saying they will donate things and help us out,” Bench said.

 

 

 

 

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