By Brent Frankenhoff
For many years, generations of children and adults have enjoyed the baseball and softball facilities at Amherst’s Nelson Park. That continued use has made it necessary to improve the facilities so that they can meet the needs of the current generation and continue to serve generations to come. To that end, a group of local citizens has been working to develop a plan to improve and renovate the existing facilities and, in the past few months, have released more details on the project under the name “Freddie’s Home Plate in Nelson Park.”
The project was initiated by Jamie Jastromski, Dale Jastromski, and the members of the Jastromski family as a way to honor the memory of longtime fan and supporter Fred Jastromski, who enjoyed dedicating his time and resources in support of the programs in Nelson Park and attended hundreds of games at the park and in surrounding communities. He passed away in October 2020 and was named to the Tomorrow River Schools Wall of Distinction in 2021.
As the project began, Point of Beginning’s Scott Groholski immediately came aboard, generously donating the design services and construction experience of his staff.
Since the diamond’s construction, the Village of Amherst has provided the general maintenance and repairs for the ball field in Nelson Park. The Village Board wholeheartedly endorsed this opportunity to partner with this group on the Freddie’s Home Plate Project and assist in providing these major park improvements, with Mike Juris and Christine Hodges coordinating with the group.
The current concession stand building and property is actually part of the Jungers-Holly Funeral Home parcel, and the generous offer by Mike Jungers to donate the concession stand property to the Village of Amherst for this project has provided a major component for these efforts.
With many enthusiastic residents and business owners holding great memories centered around Freddie and the ball field, as well as recognizing the benefits these improvements will have for the youngsters in Amherst, the fundraising committee, spearheaded by Jamie Jastromski, Joe Orsund, Brett Roberts, Becky Roberts, and Dale Jastromski, is reaching out to the Amherst community and beyond to secure the monetary donations and in-kind contributions necessary to make Freddie’s Home Plate in Nelson Park a success.
Members of the group told the Spirit, “The field, lights, bathroom facilities, and concession stand at Nelson Park have needed repairs and improvements for quite a few years now. Fred was a huge supporter of youth athletics during his time in Amherst ,and we thought that this was a great way to honor his legacy.”
The ambitious project includes a 3,200 square foot two-story building with a concession stand, restrooms, storage, and a press box, plus a covered pavilion structure, back-lit “Freddie’s Home Plate” signage, a reconstructed asphalt parking lot, improved drainage, LED field lighting, and a pillar listing donors to the project.
Committee members said that the improvements “will provide a more enjoyable experience for both the athletes on the field and the spectators in the stands. The new lights will enable additional evening use of the ball field, the concession stand and restroom upgrades will provide convenient and attractive services, and the covered pavilion area will become a picnic area and gathering space enjoyed by park users whether they are attending a ball game, enjoying the park’s green space and play equipment, or looking for an outdoor spot to eat their lunch. We anticipate that the amenities and the conveniences of Freddie’s Home Plate in Nelson Park will attract additional use through ball tournaments and other community events, as well as providing a more attractive and enjoyable stop for pedestrians and bicyclists, serving both our community’s residents and visitors from outside our community.
“In addition, we will be able to hold additional weekend events at the park, which are not possible today due to needed improvements. Additional events will mean more revenue for area businesses.”
When asked about community usage of the new facilities, Village of Amherst President Mike Juris said, “Unless there is a planned event in the park, anyone is free to use the park facilities. The concession stand and restrooms will generally be locked but can be opened for community-based events where reservations are made with the Village. We hope that the open ball field will continue to be the place where kids play their summer pickup games and where parents bring their youngsters to play catch and take their swings from home plate. The Village of Amherst, through the village clerk’s office, coordinates the ball field’s seasonal calendar, with priority given to the youth instructional activities and recreational leagues.
“Other groups or organizations who wish to reserve the use of a village green space or park can contact the village clerk to check on its availability and then complete a Public Space Use Permit application to submit for approval to the Village Board.”
While the total cost of the campaign was estimated at $825,000, in-kind donations, working with contractors to reduce original bid estimates, and a number of business and individual contributions to date have reached over a half million dollars, or approximately 63% of the fundraising goal. Organizers recently launched a campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the project with various levels of giving. Fundraisers said, “Although we have donor levels for recognition, all donations, whether they’re for $10 or $10,000, make a difference.”
Donations can be dropped off at the Amherst Village Hall, 160 Mill Street, or mailed to P.O. Box 36, Amherst, WI 54406.
Donors can contact one of the fundraising committee members—Jamie Jastromski, Joe Orsund, or Brett Roberts—who can make arrangements to accept these donations in person. Donors may also visit Freddie’s Home Plate at Nelson Park on Facebook or access the Classmunity fundraising option directly at https://bit.ly/36npovr.
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