Little league looks to improve community with Vision Fund

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

Rushmore Little League is working to make a difference in the community by helping to reduce crime. The league is asking Rapid City's Vision Fund Committee for $25,000 to add LED lights to existing light poles near Red Pesek Field..

The goal is to light the area for more than the four-month baseball season. With more light, the league hopes to reduce vandalism, drug use, and prostitution that has taken place in the parking lot in the off season.

"It has nothing to do with the game of baseball. It's not going to make Rushmore Little League any more competitive on the field,” said Jim Bussell, President, Rushmore Little League. “What it is helping us do, is to be good neighbors and helping us make this neighborhood safer, both for the users of the Rushmore Little League area, but most of the time it's going to be better for the users of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood."

The committee will announce Vision Fund recipients later this year.

Read the league's full proposal below.


Community Partners,                                    

I am writing to you in order to outline the “Neighborhood Improvement Project” that we at Rushmore Little League would like to undertake adjacent to Red Pesek Field in the 100 block of E. New York St. Most- in fact, the bulk of the projects that Rushmore Little League is working to complete- will require a large amount of community support. It is for that reason that we have sought a number of grant opportunities, including $25,000 from the Rapid City Vision Fund for 2017. Most of these projects have been described as ambitious on more than one occasion. Many of these projects are long overdue. Most of these projects are the result of our leagues shared vision. All of these projects will benefit more than Rushmore Little League. Each project has given careful thought and consideration to the surrounding neighborhoods and the community in-general. This is particularly true with the “Neighborhood Improvement Project”.

League background
Rushmore Little League serves families in North Rapid and Rapid Valley. In 2015, Rushmore Little League had 312 athletes registered. In 2016, enrollment dipped to 288. Increases and decreases in enrollment are not atypical and have occurred many times over the league’s history. Over 1/3 of our athletes are or were in the 6-8 year old range. With new residential construction happening within our boundary (specifically in the Rapid Valley area) we believe that our numbers will hold steady and then increase over the next 5-10 years. 
Rushmore Little League has two “complexes” that we lease from Rapid City and maintain. Both areas are in the downtown area. Our Minors complex is located at 260 E. Main North. The complex is comprised of 5 fields. Only 4 of those fields are developed. The complex also includes a concession stand and public restrooms. Right at 85% of our athletes play at this complex. In addition, this complex hosts the Minors city tournament each June and July. This tournament brings in around 250 athletes and an estimated 800 spectators to the complex. 
The other complex is the Majors complex. This complex is adjacent to Roosevelt Park in the 100 block of E. New York St. This complex includes the iconic Red Pesek Field. This field features below grade dugouts, a cobblestone wall beyond the left and center field fence, and an outstanding playing surface. This complex also includes the batting shed/indoor training facility and an abandoned T-Ball/Pee Wee field. The abandoned field has been dubbed “The Sandlot”. There is also a concession stand/public restroom facility on site.
This facility is the gem of the league. Annually, we host a number of games and tournaments at Red Pesek Field. In July of 2016, Rushmore Little League hosted the ND/SD District 1 10-11 year-old Little League tournament. In 2017, Rushmore Little League will host the Majors division city championship, ND/SD District 1 sub-district tournament, the ND/SD District 1 tournament, and the ND/SD District 1 10-11 year-old Little League tournament. 


Issues
Rushmore Little League faces issues the same issues that all leagues face. However, these issues are of significance because we deal with them to a high degree. First, because of the socio-economic demographic that is predominant in the Rushmore Little League area, we struggle with parent volunteers. That same demographic also has an effect on our league enrollment numbers. It is our belief that many athletes that may be interested in playing baseball are, perhaps, precluded from doing so because of their parent or guardian’s ability to pay registration fees, buy equipment, etc. Social and economic factors also have an impact on the parent’s willingness and/or ability to volunteer. As an all-volunteer league, this is an issue.  
Our league struggles with issues related to vagrancy, vandalism, and crime in general. Most, if not all, of the incidents involving the aforementioned factors are not related to the league. Rather, these issues are related to the location of our facilities. The areas in which our fields are located are high call volume areas for both the Rapid City Police and Fire Department. Exact numbers are not immediately available, however, in the past two years a number of law enforcement calls for service have been generated by the league, its neighbors, or have been officer initiated. The majority of league initiated calls for service occur in the area around Red Pesek Field. Most recently:
On March 29, 2015, an assault took place at the intersection of Herman and E. New York Streets. This incident was within 200 feet of home plate and in an area where 3 Rushmore Little League teams were practicing. The assault was not related to our league and stemmed from an alcohol fueled dispute between individuals in Roosevelt Park. The incident resulted in a vicious assault with our athletes being witnesses. 
Since September of 2015, a homicide took place in close proximity to our Majors complex, Rapid City Police report at least one prostitution arrest in our Majors parking area and both facilities have sustained damage secondary to vandalism on multiple occasions. Regularly the league is forced to remove various needles that were discarded on the field surface. Knives, drug paraphernalia, discarded prophylactics, and broken and discarded alcohol containers are frequently left on playing surfaces.

Shared Vision
In 2010, I had the fortune of being asked to participate in the strategic planning process with my employer, the Rapid City Fire Department. During this process I learned about shared vision. Over the course of the past two years, our league has developed a vision of where we want to see the league and our facilities in the next three to five years and beyond. That vision takes actual baseball in to account very little. The shared vision of our league is to improve the safety of our athletes, improve the aesthetics of the surrounding neighborhoods, instill a sense of pride in all that are associated with our league, and lead by-example with regard to the beautification of the Roosevelt Park and Steele Street park areas. The shared vision and the associated projects will have little-to-no impact on our performance on the baseball field. 


Our shared vision took into account the City of Rapid City 2020 Strategic Plan. In this plan it is stated:
“Goal #4- By 2020 Rapid City will develop an interconnected parks, arts and recreation system that provides diverse opportunities for enjoyment and adds to our family friendly quality of life.”
In addition to the 2020 Strategic Plan, we are working to make our shared vision consistent with the Rapid City Comprehensive Plan that was adopted in April of 2014. 
Rushmore Little League takes a great deal of pride in knowing that our shared vision is a community minded vision that has less to do with performance on the diamond and more to do with a sense of civic responsibility. We feel that the lessons that we teach our youth with regard to this vision will serve and impact this community in a positive manner long after their playing days have ended.

Project Overview
On February 23rd of 2016, I had the opportunity to initially outline our shared vision projects to members of the Parks and Recreation Department from the City of Rapid City. Jeff Biegler, Lon Van Deusen, Doug Lowe, Alex DeSmidt, and Scott Anderson were gracious enough to allow me the opportunity to share this outline with them. During that meeting, it was determined that a comprehensive explanation and overview should be laid out in writing. 
On the 23rd of September, several leaders from Parks and Recreation as well as community partners from the South Dakota School of Mines, Rapid City Fire Department and members of the Rapid City Police Department met to discuss the direction of the Rushmore Little League Shared Vision. Specifically, we addressed the “Neighborhood Improvement Project”. Since February 23, I have met or had conversation with members of Community Development, City Council, Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Watch, the Rapid City Rush, and the Rapid City Police Department regarding the project. All have expressed agreement that this project is meaningful and important. 
It is the goal of Rushmore Little League to be an anchor for the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to participate in making the neighborhood safer in addition to adding to its aesthetics. In 2011, the Rapid City Police Department and Rush Foundation, led by Officer Ryan Phillips and Rush Defenseman Riley Weselowski, partnered with numerous community organizations in the “Light the Night” campaign. This project resulted in the addition of 58 solar-powered lights along the Leonard Swanson Memorial Parkway.
As we have learned over time, crime does not seem to go away but, rather, it migrates. In this particular instance, it seems as though some of the crime once experienced by the area along the bike path just south of the Majors complex has migrated north to the area around the Majors complex. During non-game times, the area surrounding the Majors complex is poorly lit, yet highly traveled. Issues related to this poor lighting are highlighted above.
Rushmore Little League has a shared vision that consists installation of a number of a number of LED lights with photo electric timers on existing structures surrounding Red Pesek Field. These lights will be installed on light poles and buildings beginning near the intersection of Herman and E. Chicago Streets. The lighting will continue north to the intersection of Herman and E. New York St. Lighting would then run the length of the south side 100 block of E. New York to the intersection of E. New York and N. Maple Streets.
Lighting is an important first phase in the “Neighborhood Improvement Project”. Rushmore Little League has also requested and received a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) inspection by Officer Robin Black and Officer Ron Terviel of the RCPD Street Crimes Unit on the 19th of August. Rushmore Little League intends to apply for a CPTED grant to help address vandalism and vagrancy. Strategies to reduce crime include Natural Surveillance, Territorial Reinforcement, Access Control, Image and Maintenance, and Community Activity or Education. When implemented, these strategies can help Deter, Delay, Deny and Detect individuals who mean to do harm to innocent people and may also help improve the outlook of property. Improved lighting will certainly help with these issues on Rushmore Little League occupied areas as well as all areas adjacent to Rushmore Little League facilities. This includes the residential areas in close proximity to Rushmore Little League. A copy of the CPTED inspection has been included.
Additionally, it is our belief that this lighting project will also enhance safety of pedestrians and motorists in the area. Pedestrian visibility related to parking in the area can prove to be problematic during games and tournaments. Additionally, children and adults frequently cross the street to go to vehicles, chase foul balls, etc. Increased lighting will help reduce the probability of a car vs pedestrian collision in this area.
This project is of importance for our organization because of its potential impact on a number of individuals and organizations. For decades, the Roosevelt Park neighborhood has been a fantastic host to Red Pesek Field and those who visit and play. It is the desire of Rushmore Little League to give back to that community during a time when the neighborhood needs us most.
It is our desire to fund the initial installation of the project in 2017 with $25,000 from the Rapid City Vision Fund. The costs associated with running the lighting would be budgeted in to the 2017 Rushmore Little League budget. Funding comes through registration fees, sponsorships, etc. Installation of solar panels to generate electricity to run the lighting has also been discussed and is being strongly considered.

We appreciate your time and attention. If you would like any clarification or have questions related to our request, please do not hesitate to contact me. We sincerely appreciate your consideration.

Gratefully, 

Jim Bussell
President, Rushmore Little League

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