Approximately 75 former players were on hand Oct. 22 for the official opening of Kansas City Kansas Community College's long-awaited new state-of-the-art softball complex.
Unified Government Mayor Marc Holland, KCKCC President Dr. Doris Givens and Board of Trustees Chairman Wendell Maddox cut the ceremonial ribbon as balloons filled the air before Mayor Holland threw out the first pitch.
"The opening could not have turned out better," said KCKCC head softball coach Kacy Tillery and a former Blue Devil player. "It only seemed fitting that the grand opening should include former members of the Blue Devil family who played so many years on the old field and what better way to open the field than to have an alumni game following the ribbon-cutting.
"We were blessed with a fantastic day weather-wise and with about 75 former players and their family there to play and watch it made for a very special day. Our thanks to Dr. Givens, Vice-President Susan Lindahl, Tami Bartunek and Liz Williams of the Endowment Foundation and Athletic Director Tony Tompkins in helping make the game and grand opening so special. It was so much fun to see former players and in many cases, teammates with whom I played."
Located at the south end of the campus at 8212 State Avenue, the new complex boasts the first all-weather field in the Jayhawk Conference. "It's excited," said Tillery. "It's a field I'd put up with any in the state of Kansas and that includes the four-year schools like KU, Wichita State and Emporia State."
Tillery said the artificial turf should all but eliminate games lost to inclement weather. "Last spring we had 14 doubleheaders either cancelled or postponed by the weather and probably upwards of 50 or more over the last three years. We'd have pools of water at home plate and first and third base. And that doesn't approach the number of practices we lost because the field was not playable."
One of the major changes was the rotation of the playing field with home plate facing in a southeasterly direction. "Home plate is adjacent to the concession stand which will give fans much better access to the rest rooms and concessions," said Tillery. The rotation will also eliminate fielders on the right side of the infield having to look directly into the sun. "The new field will also be much safer. As it was, the infield was scary because you'd never know which direction a hard hit ground ball might go."
Preliminary work on the complex began last October with the demolition of the old field with most of the major construction completed this summer. Artificial turf on the infield and outfield was laid by Field Turf while the Precision Co. built batting cages, put up fencing in the outfield, along the foul lines and behind home plate and donated a new scoreboard. Dugout, maintenance areas and a press box were constructed by the KCKCC Buildings and Grounds Division in conjunction with the Dr. Thomas R. Burke Technical Center.
Other changes include a warm-up area and three batting cages behind the third base dugout, a warm-up area for pitchers behind the visitor's dugout and a limited amount of parking for the handicapped.