Beyer to become a peach of a park

Beyer to become a peach of a park

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The Rockford Park District wants to beautify what used to be the playground of the Rockford Peaches, as well as many other sports teams.

Presently, the Hispanic Soccer League and the Tokoto City Soccer League use Beyer Park on 15th Avenue. Also, local schools play flag football, soccer and baseball.

With the enhancements, the park will be used for general recreation. Money raised Rockford Jaycees administered by the Rockford Community Foundation make the improvements possible.

In 1992, the Rockford Jaycees raised $30,000, intending to rebuild the field of the Rockford Peaches by selling candy tins. However, the goal of $664,000 wasn’t reached. Shortly thereafter, the Park District oversaw the stadium’s demolition.

Then, the money was invested through the Community Foundation, the organization that oversees the Park District’s funds. “It’s grown to over $100,000,” said Dan Gundrum, senior manager of recreation facilities for the Park District.

Until 2004, the Park District will have about $5,000 (the accumulated interest from the $30,000 raised) each year for the ongoing project. In 2004, the Park District will modify and plan for additional needs for another five years.

“What they asked us to do is put the interest toward the park and develop a five-year, capital-improvement program,” Gundrum said. “What we want to do is set up a five-year plan which is susceptible to any modification. Right now, we’re just taking whatever the Rockford Community Trust says we have available each year.”

He said the Rockford Jaycees wanted the money to go toward any type of improvements on Beyer Park.

In October, the Park District put the first $5,000 to use. The Park District reseeded and aerated the turf and removed the soccer goals that were old and considered unsafe.

In 2001, improvements will include the installation of soccer goals, the addition of three picnic tables, two sections of bleachers and turf aeration. A sign that honors the Rockford Peaches and details the history of the park will also be added.

In 2002 and 2003, the Park District will create picnic pavilions. In 2004, the Park District will modify and make plans for the park’s necessities for an additional five years.

“I think it’s very noble of the Jaycees to use the forethought to put this money aside and let the Rockford Community Foundation administer it, so we can provide a nice foundation in that area,” Gundrum remarked.

The park’s history

The most notable aspect of the park is that the Rockford Peaches, which inspired the movie, A League of Their Own, played in the field from 1943 to 1950.

The Rockford Peaches was one of four female baseball teams in the All-American Girls Baseball League that Philip K. Wrigley created in 1943. The league folded in 1954.

Average attendance at the stadium was 90,000 spectators yearly. The team used both the field and the area where the present Beyer School is located.

Events such as circuses, drum and bugle corps events and political rallies utilized the park as well.

“It was also a facility that was used for Rockford schools to play football a number of years ago,” Gundrum added.

The facility was originally named the 15th Avenue Field. On Oct. 29, 1948, it was dedicated as Beyer Stadium at a football game between East and West high schools. Charles Beyer was a famous coach and athletic director in Rockford schools.

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