by Rich Hinkle
This article appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of HardBall Magazine
|"It was a lot of work, and a long time coming, but worth it," said Bill Iliff.
The Sacramento MSBL, founded in 1986, joined the National MSBL in 1988. By 1992, many members were dissatisfied with the facilities available to the league. Bill Iliff, a Board Member since 1988, began looking for alternatives.
Iliff found an 11-acre plot, owned by the Sacramento Water Department. With the support of City Councilman Jim Sequeira and Sacramento MSBL President Jerry Karnow, Iliff convinced the Water Department to lease the land for $150 per year for five years. ”They told us, ‘If we could develop it, we could have it,'” Iliff said.
MSBL member Rick Bateman was President of the East Sacramento Babe Ruth League. Since the BRL season ends in June and the MSBL's begins in July, Iliff [also a BRL manager] and Bateman saw a natural fit. In 1993, the two organizations became formal partners in the project. BRL Commissioner Ron Squaglia and MSBL member Jeff Malm took charge of the construction effort.
In 1994-95, a landscape architect designed the two-field facility with an original budget of $1.1 million. Iliff then presented a proposal to the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, which agreed to loan the partnership $290,000 for lighting. Backed by SMUD, the Mayor and Councilman Sequeira, the partners began raising public support.
Contributions valued at over $2 million came in the form of donated or discounted materials and labor from businesses, contractors and labor unions: John Jackson Masonry, S.S. Fencing Company, West Coast Fence, United [equipment] Rentals, the Sacramento-Sierra Labor Council Apprenticeship Program. MSBL Board Member Val Lewis designed the grandstand and maintenance building.
The Sacramento MSBL collected over $50,000 with a $50/player assessment in 1996-97. BRL raised $15,000 from its members. Fundraisers netted $10,000. The City provided about $40,000.
Bad weather played havoc with the project timetable, but the Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks are now in full operation. With lights that pass AAA Minor League standards, they measure 320 feet down the lines and 410 to center. Joe Fernandez and Jim Barr are in charge of turf maintenance, which is expected to run about $25,000 per year.
"It was a lot of work and a long time coming,” Iliff* said, "but worth it. We would be happy to provide information to other MSBL affiliates interested in similar projects.”