Traveling Washington with his son’s team, Snoqualmie Valley Little League President Roy Baunsgard watched boys play baseball among the rolling hills of the Yakima Valley and the wide horizons of Moses Lake. No place compared to home.
Few vistas, he thought, had anything on the backdrop of Mount Si at the Little League’s home field, North Bend’s Torguson Park.
Touring newer ballfields, Baunsgard was also struck by their modern facilities, bleachers and concession stands. The decades-old four-plex of ballfields at Torguson, meanwhile, were showing their age.
Bent and bowed, “these backstops had served their time,” Baunsgard said. The Valley is growing, but facilities weren’t keeping up with the growing league, which begins registration this month.
So, about a year ago, Baunsgard hit on a plan. He wanted to turn Torguson Park into a showplace, a modern park where the league could host big baseball tournaments, under the face of Mount Si. Then he put the plan into action. Baunsgard’s idea has gone from a diagram on a napkin to a master plan at North Bend City Hall.
It didn’t take long for Little League officials to realize that their wish list—modern backstops and dugouts, a centralized restroom and concession stand—encompassed more work, including a new water and sewer line, than they alone could fund. The league turned to the city, working with planning staff and city Councilman Jonathan Rosen.
Official consideration began with the North Bend parks commission, which made changes to the park element of the city’s comprehensive plan. The council is expected to adopt the plan in April.
The city had its own ideas for Torguson Park, so the league’s plan had to mesh. The league will pay for its $60,000 ballfield fix while the city is working on grants for a new walking path and exercise stations around the park, a gathering plaza by the parking lot, and new access to the growing neighborhoods to the east.
Little League and the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Soccer Association both partner with the city from time to time on improvements to local fields. The league’s Majors field got a re-do last summer. The new upgrade is a bigger version of that club-city partnership.
“When it’s done, it’s going to be the nicest baseball park in the Valley, if not beyond,” Baunsgard said.
The new restroom/concession stand, which will be similar to Si View’s or Centennial Fields’ building, is the biggest change.
The current building, shadowed by a stand of trees at the far side of Field Four, “is not usable for most parents,” said SVLL Scheduler Troy Garwood. “You can’t see it. With the transient population, you don’t send anybody under 12 to the bathroom if you can’t see them.” Besides, he adds, nobody’s going to get a hot dog if they have to walk 200 yards and miss a big play.
“Every good baseball field (has) a center hub,” explains Baunsgard. “It’s family oriented. Everybody can hang out in the middle. It’s a group gathering spot.”
Without a central hub, “The game slows down,” said Rosen. “Here, they’re in and out in seconds. It’s much safer.”
To Rosen, the work will add a much-needed layer of polish to the field. And the partnership, he said, offers a lot of “bang for the buck.”
Surveying and design will come this summer, with work starting next fall. The league will be fundraising for the project this year, in a campaign inspired by North Bend Theatre’s successful $100,000 digital projector campaign.
“Little League is a trademark in this city,” said Garwood, who expects big local support.
With growth in the city, and hotels being planned, Baunsgard sees big things in a better baseball field.
“We’re primed to prepare that place for a lot of fun,” he said.
Learn more about SVLL at http://www.svll.net/home.php.
An artist’s vision of the new four-plex baseball field at North Bend’s Torguson Park, including dugouts, a central concession stand and restroom. Image courtesy Tom Phillips.