The Lions Club Field is the longest standing baseball field in Stephenville City Park, and thanks to some help from both the Lions Club and Evening Lions Club, it will soon be better than ever.
But that wasn't always the plan.
For 15 years beginning in 1996, the master plan for the park, as established by the park board and Stephenville City Council, called for eventual demolition of the field and relocation to the south side of the park near the other ball fields.
But in 2011, a sense of nostalgia changed those plans.
"A couple years ago the park board and city council revised the city park master plan to reflect that ball field remaining on the north end of the park," said Stephenville Community Services Director Drew Wells. "In the 1996 and 2002 master plans, it showed that field would be relocated to the south side, and the north end would be made into more of a leisure, green space type of area.
"But there is so much history with that field being there so long," Wells added. "The park board and the council decided the north end should be the nostalgic area and the south side should be the newer, more modern part of the park."
With that decision came a renewed focus on maintenance of the Lions Field.
"Because the plan was to move it, for a long time we didn't put a lot of focus on mass improvements such as expensive irrigation and new fences. It just didn't make sense to do that," Wells explained. "However, when the park board and council changed the plan to keep it there, that in turn changed our focus as far as maintaining that facility. We wanted to put some money into it and really enhance its playability."
The ensuing project has included multiple phases over two years and won't be completed until this fall. As with any such project, it began with securing funding.
"We approached the noon Lions Club and the Evening Lions Club about the project, told them what's going on and both of them agreed to give $10,000 each for $20,000 total," Wells said. "That and our ability to do a lot of the work with our own parks staff made the improvements feasible."
Both the infield and outfield were regraded to drain properly, new dirt in the infield and new sod throughout the infield and first 20-30 feet of the outfield were laid and an irrigation system has been installed. There's even a new padded backstop and new fencing, with the rock for the backstop matching that of the nearby rec hall.
Remaining work includes remodeled dugouts, which Stephenville Parks Superintendent Bill Richards and staff will complete in coming weeks, and a new scoreboard, which Wells says will be installed this fall.
"We were able to do part of the project out of last fiscal year and part out of this fiscal year, and the scoreboard will come out of next fiscal year's budget," Wells explained. "The help of the Lions Clubs and the flexibility to do this over time has made it feasible to turn this into the type of field we need for our own local kids and for district and state tournaments."
Wells said the city passed on hosting district and state baseball tournaments this summer because of the reconstruction, but he plans on welcoming back such events next summer. The Lions Club Field will also continue to serve as the home of local 13-15 year old baseball play.
"We've basically completely reconstructed it," Wells said. "It's like a new field at the same location."
That's music to the ears of some of the town's more nostalgic residents, Wells included.
"In both the Lions Club and Evening Lions Club, there are guys who played on that field 40 years ago," he said. "I read in the paper the other day about Brock Holt and how well he's doing with the Red Sox, and I remember him playing there as a scrawny little kid with really good hand-eye coordination. I always thought if he gained some size he could go somewhere."