For decades the land served as fertile fields for farmers who harvested corn, but those days have passed and the land was put up for sale. Until a couple of months ago all that was to be seen were weeds, tall grass, and the barren farmers field with the realtor sign sitting in front. Each time I drove by I wondered whether it would turn into another apartment housing development or subdivision.
Then one day I saw it happening. Bulldozers and large earth movers were scraping away at the earth to prepare it for what would turn out to be… You’ll never guess:
A youth baseball and softball complex!
Build It and They Will Come
What began as a vision by longtime friends Tom Kelenic and Greg Beatty, slowly evolved into a reality that will benefit the 900 Waukesha Blazers youth baseball players.
The project started last May when Kelenic and Beatty bought about 60 acres located just south of the Les Paul Parkway between Sunset Drive and East Avenue in the Town of Waukesha. However, development of the 5 Diamonds Fields was incumbent on the development and sale of six residential lots contained within 17 acres of the 60 acre parcel. The lots ranged from $140,000 to $165,000, and if just one lot didn’t sell the 5 Diamonds project would not have happened.
The sale of the residential lots paid for the land purchase, as well as the $200,000 cost in infrastructure improvements that were needed for the subdivision. In addition to the land sales, an additional $2 million dollars of investment was necessary for the playing and practice facilities. Costs for the lighting alone were $300,000. “Greg and I are not millionaires,” said Kelenic. “We are not big-time developers. We took this on because we saw the community needed it, the kids needed it.”
5 Diamonds Fields includes ten total baseball fields: six lighted fields for middle and high-school aged players, and four rookie fields for younger players. In addition to the fields, a building for concessions, restrooms, and a winter practice facility are being built.
5 Diamonds will serve kids ages 4 to 18 – including middle school and high school teams, and the Fields will operate from 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekends. Closing times will depend on the seasons.
When it is complete, it will mark the first time the Waukesha Blazers (a traveling youth baseball and softball program) will have a field of their own to call “Home”. Currently, the girl’s softball teams have to travel all across the area to play doubleheaders at night since there are no fields in Waukesha with lights. Waukesha Blazers president Brad Henes said, “We just don’t have a whole lot of baseball fields, and the ones we do have are hard to come by.”
When the new fields open next year driving from city to city to play a “home game” will no longer be an issue. “We have parents stating how crazy it is that we have to drive around to East Troy or Kenosha for games,” said Kelenic. “It’s insane we don’t have a field of our own.”
Plans Did Not Pass without Concerns from Residents
As with any development plan, there are always concerns and 5 Diamonds was no exception to receiving criticism.
Public hearings last fall prompted some criticism in particular over-field lighting because the complex is near a residential area. Further, the town permits light poles to extend 28 feet, and the project calls for 70-foot lights, thereby requiring an ordinance change. However, Kelenic said a majority of the complaints were from residents within the City of Waukesha and not from the Town of Waukesha where the complex will be built.
“Eighty to 90 percent of the concerns were from people in the city,” Kelenic said. “I had to sit in on the board and the comments were ludicrous. This is strictly a youth field and for people to be against that was a shame.”
Moreover, Town Chairman Angie Van Scyoc said she saw examples of the state-of-the-art lights that more narrowly direct lighting at a Pewaukee soccer field and nearby residents there did not find them objectionable.
Kelenic said that ball diamonds like this are owned by municipalities that run their own programs or by schools.
“There is not a privately owned complex in the state of Wisconsin or the Midwest,” he said.
Not until now, anyway…