Grassroots project seeks baseball facility - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Grassroots project seeks baseball facility

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Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 8:00 am | Updated: 5:19 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

If only the ABC Project was as easy as 1-2-3 then Ron Passmore would be one happy grandpa.

The longtime Ahwatukee Foothills resident has begun a grassroots project that he hopes will find a way to build a quality youth baseball facility in the area.

He is calling it the Ahwatukee Baseball Complex Project (ABC Project) that would even include a new public entity called the Ahwatukee Baseball Alliance (ABA) that would help with the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the complex.

That’s a lot of letters and even more money.

“I have no idea where this will go or even how far, but we are getting this thing rolling,” Passmore, 60, said. “We are taking it one step at a time and seeing where it goes.”

The first step is an initial meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 at the Pecos Community Center conference room.

Passmore said he has received word that someone from Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s office will be in attendance along with Phoenix Parks and Recreation employee Louie Spadafore, who is in charge of athletic fields in Ahwatukee.

Passmore noted that Todd McFarlane, an Ahwatukee resident and well-known cartoonist and entrepreneur, coaches a little league team and could join them, not in a financial way, but more as a “mover and a shaker.”

Additionally, someone from each baseball or softball league in Ahwatukee would have a representative.

One of those coaches would be Russ Christ, who helps with the Phoenix FireBirds.

“I think a state-of-the-art baseball/softball complex would add a lot to the Ahwatukee community,” Christ said. “Compared to our current fields and facilities, which are average at best for Arizona, it would give our children quality options for practice and games.

“Compared to the recreational facilities that exist in our neighboring communities, ours don’t match the quality of life that exists here.”

The reason this all started is Passmore’s grandson, Antonio Passmore, and his team, the Arizona Grinders 9U, travel all around the surrounding area for tournaments in Gilbert (Big League Dreams) and Peoria (Rio Vista Park), but never get to host one.

It’s not just a matter of convenience, but in Passmore’s mind a missed opportunity to help bring money into the community.

“We all travel to these places and spend money there for lunch, dinner or at the concession stand,” he said. “A facility could actually produce a source of positive revenue, not only for the city itself, but also be an economic boon to the entire Ahwatukee area.”

Passmore, who drives a bus at the airport, looks at the three main parks (Pecos, Mountain Vista and Desert Foothills) in the Ahwatukee area and sees undeveloped or underdeveloped land.

He knows there is a master plan designed by the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and that they are not going to just hand over some land, but he said it can’t hurt to look into what options are possible.

“The biggest step is getting some land that can house six or eight ball fields committed to the project,” Passmore said. “If that can happen then that drops the cost down immensely. That is the first step and, if not, then we have to look at other options, but I am hoping we don’t have to go any further from there.”

Rene Vera, deputy director for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, said the biggest roadblock, besides money, is getting the master plan for these parks changed.

“There is a long-term agreement that has been in place,” she said. “The City Council can hear ideas and take it into consideration, but something like this would not be about rolling up in your car and letting the kids out and play. There are man hours and costs involved.”

Passmore realizes this and has ideas that may or may not be doable and would take some outside-of-the-box thinking.

In Passmore’s design, once built, the city would then own the facilities.

However, day-to-day operations, including scheduling and even maintenance, would then be turned over to the ABA. The ABA would be comprised of representatives from Ahwatukee Little League, Pony League, club baseball teams, and girls softball teams. They would be charged with organizing on-going staff for the operation and, ultimately, be responsible for all aspects of the complex other than watering and cutting the grass.

There are other ideas like having the Girl Scouts help run the concession stand; having high school students help with the grounds keeping for school credit and having teens take a shot at becoming umpires.

Unrealistic? Impossible? Doable? Just plan silly?

Passmore doesn’t know and that is why he is hosting the initial meeting to find out.

“This is something that popped in my head a month ago,” he said. “Maybe a month from now it is a dead issue, but we are going to explore this to the fullest because we owe it to the kids and we just don’t have a quality facility in Ahwatukee.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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