Pony Baseball gets lease extension

Pony Baseball gets lease extension

By Amanda Carlson, Staff Writer

Rockford Pony Baseball has been granted at least another year at Roy Gayle Park.

Service Corp. International (SCI), owners of Roy Gayle Park, has granted the program a lease extension that runs through Aug. 1, 2004, and guarantees another summer for youth baseball and softball.

Pony Baseball received word in May from the Houston-based company that its lease would not be renewed. However, program officials pushed hard for the extension, which would give them an entire year to raise funds in an effort to purchase the property.

“This is great news for the Roy Gayle program,” said Ken Held, Pony Baseball treasurer and member of the Executive Board for the program. “It gives us the time that will be needed to negotiate for the property or to make other arrangements. I’m sure that all of the families connected with Roy Gayle will breathe a sigh of relief to know that their ball park will be around and kicking for another year.”

Throughout lease negotiations with SCI, Pony Baseball has also had discussions with several groups including the Rockford and Winnebago park districts.

According to a press release by Pony Baseball, Rockford Park District leaders have looked into the possibility of applying for a grant with the Department of Natural Resources. This grant would provide 50 percent of the funds necessary to purchase the land. Pony Baseball would be responsible for raising the remaining 50 percent. If this were to occur, the park district would own the property but immediately lease it back to the Roy Gayle organization.

The property itself is actually within the boundaries of the Winnebago Park District, but district officials decided the project was too large for them to tackle. An inter-governmental agreement among all parties is in the works in case the grant application option becomes a reality.

Earlier this year, SCI had the 55-acre property appraised at $33,000 per acre, setting the value of the property at about $1.8 million.

The league conducted an appraisal of its own and found the property to be worth $6,000 per acre. An oversight by the city of Rockford involving water wells knocked the estimate down to $3,000 per acre, or $165,000 total.

“The X factor is how much SCI will take for the property,” said Phil Rivera, Pony Baseball president.

Negotiations will begin with SCI soon to determine at which price the cemetery giant will be willing to sell the property.

“Lots of talking to do yet; lots of work to do yet, but at least now we have a little time to do just that,” Held said.

A meeting to update all Roy Gayle managers and coaches was held Thursday, June 19. Officials will now attempt to organize the numerous offers of support that have been made in the last two months. To continue, a major fund-raising operation will have to be organized.

“You make a lot of friends in 41 years. We hope our friends will help us now so we can be around for another 41 years,” Rivera said.

“The community has been very supportive,” Held said. “Everyone keeps saying, ‘You can’t lose this.’ Everyone wants to know how they can help.”

Roy Gayle is at 973 S. Meridian Rd. and is home to seven diamonds, 80 teams and more than 1,000 softball and baseball players ages 5 to 16. The season starts at the end of April and ends Aug 1. For more information, call Pony Baseball at 962-4417.

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