Hellman Field – An Opportunity to Build Our Ballpark

Posted by on Jan 26 in Hellman Field

hel_allstar_009 It’s summertime in the late 1940s – a time when Baseball rules American sports and our “Fields of Dreams” on the East Side of Waterloo are sandbur-laden vacant lots.

The real baseball fields are a bike’s-ride away across the river that divides the city of Waterloo, on the West Side. But that doesn’t deter you from playing the game you love. Nor do you consider the divide that separates this industrial city … it’s summertime … it’s baseball.

Sixty years later things have changed, and there are now lush green diamonds on the East Side – the jewel in the crown – Hellman Field, a project that started from a “wish list.”

How a wish became a reality…
In 2007, Hellman approached our longtime Partner In EducationDr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, about how we could assist the school as part of our 40th anniversary celebration. A list was developed and provided, containing an idea that took my breath away – build a ballpark on the vacant lot next to the school. A typical East Side lot, so full of sandburs, that the kids avoided playing on it. The school and field are located about 10 blocks from my childhood Hellman-family home.

hel_allstar_009Phone calls were made to Hellman family members, Cunningham School officials, Community School Officials, Leisure Services Staff, City Council members and potential donors to get reactions – receiving a thumb’s-up from everyone. Permission was given by the Waterloo School Board to name the project Hellman Field. Planning and fund-raising began, and construction started in late spring 2007. By late summer, field landscaping was finished, bleachers were put in place, fences were erected, trees were planted and a diamond began to take shape.

In early spring of 2008, the decision was made to sod the infield and outfield to provide a better playing surface and to get the field ready for Opening Day in July. A State-of-the-art scoreboard and field lighting were installed and wired. A circular pedestal with a huge bronze plaque on top was designed, containing the names of all the donors, and was placed at the front of the grandstand. We were ready to “Play Ball!”

hel_allstar_026A huge crowd of several hundred people attended the Opening Day ceremony on July 15 to see the Optimist All Star games played. Dedication ceremonies were held on August 2, with speeches by City and School Officials and other VIPs, entertainment by drum and bugle corps, the Lord’s Warriors dancers, and barbeque ribs provided by Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. 2009 saw more than 60 games played on Hellman Field, with additional games played under the lights. How often in your life is an idea given to you that stokes a life-long passion, allowing you to fill a void with something so tangible?