By ASHLEY ADAMAITIS
SYRACUSE — “That’s good for another Warrior, first down!”
That’s a phrase that just about anyone around town could explain to you. Syracuse, with its small town feel, is nothing short of a Friday night lights story. When Wawasee athletics go all the way to state, just about every business sports its good luck wishes in neon for everyone to see.
Going to the game is a common theme come Friday night or when the first sign of spring appears. Wawasee athletics are valued in the community in a way that brings people together and keeps athletes and their fans involved in something priceless.
That being said, the Harold Schrock Syracuse Youth Athletic Complex, which is making its debut May 4, will be a addition for the teams that make this town sit on the edge of its seat before the last buzzer rings. A time for the grand opening is not yet set.
The athletic complex is dedicated to Harold Schrock who has been a financial backbone for the project. Chris Cotton, a member of the board for the complex and long-time Wawasee Pee Wee coach, has been manning this project along with Kiwanis president Tammy Cotton, project fundraiser and Kiwanis member Dick Pelletier, volunteer and Kiwanis member Larry Martindale and Syracuse Parks Department’s Chad Jonsson.
Members of the community along with Pee Wee veterans have also been generous in the donations given, Chris Cotton said.
The idea for the athletic complex stemmed from the fact that both Wawasee Pee Wee and the Kiwanis baseball and softball teams did not have a home of their own, according to Chris Cotton. Each organization utilizes multiple spaces for practice, games and equipment storage.
Having a space of their own, Cotton said, will not only provide a more centralized location, but it will also help the teams’ progress.
“Having a place that’s home will grow the program,” Chris Cotton said.
The Kiwanis Club, Wawasee Pee Wee and Syracuse Parks Department are responsible for the complex and their schedules come first, Chris Cotton said. However, the general public is welcome to rent it out for private sporting events.
The location of the complex is on the grounds of what used to be known as “Vega Field” near Syracuse Elementary in uptown Syracuse. The property was once owned by the school corporation and was bought by the Syracuse Parks Department.
It will hold four baseball fields and two tee ball fields designated for the Kiwanis baseball and softball teams, as well as a football field where Wawasee Pee Wee football will be played. There is a fitness track that runs along the outside of the complex that is open to the general public.
Baseball and softball will be played in the spring and football in the fall. When winter arrives, the complex will be equipped with two indoor batting cages, as well as portable pitching mounds so that pitchers can practice indoors as well all year-round.
Larry Martindale has run the Kiwanis baseball and softball leagues for 34 years and will be a groundskeeper at the new complex. He feels right at home with the area as he ran Vega Field for years and takes pride in the notion that this was a community effort.
This project is not only to benefit the players now, but also will encourage future involvement and instill sportsmanship for the many years these kids have ahead of them in school, Chris Cotton said. That notion has already begun to trickle down.
Chris Cotton says it’s been neat to play at the high school seeing as the high school players were able to be directly involved with helping out. Even with the change in location, high school athletes are still encouraged to volunteer when available.
With so much progress since 2010 when the plan for the Harold Schrock Syracuse Youth Athletic Complex started coming together, there is still some work to be done before the May dedication and opening.
Volunteers are invited to the next open workday set for Saturday, April 13.
For more information or to register for the workday, contact Chad Jonsson at the Parks Department, at 574-457-3440.