Take me out to the ball game? Absolutely. And in Falls City, there’s a new game in town. Well, not exactly a new game, but certainly new places to play it.
A fabulous baseball and softball complex was dedicated on a warm and sunny Sunday, April 28, afternoon. As if on cue, spring finally arrived in southeast Nebraska and what better way to welcome a new season than the unveiling of the “Fiedler Family Ball Complex,” which will provide immaculate, state-of-the-art fields for generations of young ballplayers as they hone their hitting, pitching, fielding and team-bonding skills. And have a blast doing so.
“In the 40 years I have been in Falls City, this community has given me the opportunity to be a part of many wonderful community projects,” said emcee Rod Vandeberg. “And, while I have enjoyed them all, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the best!”
Vandeberg led a group of speakers that included Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, State Sen. Dan Watermeier, Falls City Mayor Tim Hersh and Ballpark Committee Chairman Brian Poppe. Monsignor Robert Roh of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church gave the opening prayer.
After the ceremony and ribbon cutting, “first pitches” were thrown at each of the fields that make up the complex — Hartman Field, Southeast Nebraska Communications Field, Vandeberg Field and F&M Bank Field. The revamped John and Amalia Morehead Field at Grandview Park opened several months ago.
Vandeberg described Sunday’s ceremony as a “special celebration” and “dedication of another wonderful new project in our great town.” He explained that recent, welcome rains have caused some delays as the project nears completion, but that “hopefully, we can be ready to play ball when the season starts.”
Vandeberg explained how a “very generous ‘lead off’ gift of $400,000 from The Richardson Foundation” started the ball rolling on the ballpark effort. Those funds, he said, came from the estate of Francis Fiedler. The emcee said that gift “really jump started” the fund-raising campaign.
The speaker, former Mayor and leader of many recent community efforts, shared parts of the project that he believes “exemplify the extraordinary fiber and character of this great community” — which “make me very proud to live in Falls City, Nebraska!” He pointed to the way the complex turned out and how it will “provide many wonderful benefits for our young people for decades to come,” which is “vitally important because our young people are and will always be the backbone of this great community.” Vandeberg also acknowledged the “overwhelming and wide-spread support” for the project from within and without Falls City. It appears, he said, that donations (including in-kind) will completely fund a nearly $2 million project. Much of the “in kind” work was done by City Utility and Park Department employees, thanks to the endorsement of Mayor Hersh and the City Council.
Special thanks were given to Poppe and Ballpark Committee Treasurer Kevin Malone. “I, for one, will think about you guys every time I drive by this great complex,” Vandeberg said.
Vandeberg saluted Lt. Gov. Heidemann and Sen. Watermeier for their support of Falls City and made special introduction of senior landscape architect and Turf Solutions partner Bill Phillips, who also addressed the large crowd. “I do not know how we could have chosen any better,” said Vandeberg.
Taking part in the ribbon cutting were members of the Fiedler family, Mayor Hersh, Council president Jerry Oliver, Falls City Rec president Don Hogue, Poppe, Malone, Dan Hill and Dr. Terry Malcolm, representing The Richardson Foundation, Lt. Gov. Heidemann, Sen. Watermeier, Turf Solutions representatives and Vandeberg.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the ceremonial ribbon has been cut and I am pleased to announce that this beautifully remodeled complex is now an official part of this community!” Vandeberg explained.
After “first pitches” were made at each field, refreshments were served.
The Journal will follow up on this story in next week’s edition.
Pictured in the story: Tossing out the ceremonial first pitches Sunday afternoon at the respective ballparks that they and their families generously helped make a reality (clockwise, from top left): Meredith Poppe, granddaughter of Ed and Sandra Hartman; F&M Bank President Merle Veigel; Rod Vandeberg and daughter Lori Parrish; Southeast Nebraska Communications owner Dorothy Towle.