What would a new sports complex mean to Nebraska City? And does the town really have a need for one? The sentiments of a number of coaches seem to indicate the answer for both of those questions.
It really comes down to an issue of green space with the major programs involved being both baseball and softball, at all ages, as well as soccer.
At current, the game fields for baseball are as follows: Clemmy Holmes Field in the heart of Steinhart Park as well as two game fields for youth at that location and fields at the Nebraska City softball complex.
For softball, the fields which could be used for competition include the fast pitch field at the Nebraska City softball complex as well as two other fields at that location, plus the middle diamond at Steinhart Park.
For soccer, the situation is a bit more dire as the youth programs are utilizing the area formerly known as Red Fox Run, which is privately owned and which may not be available to the group long term.
Scooter Edmisten, who oversees the recreation programs for the City of Nebraska City, said he feels like practice space is one of the major issues for all three programs. Before the start of the competition season, Edmisten said that teams are usually able to find space to practice.
But when the games come up and field availability goes down, issues arise and some teams are forced to sit out as much as a week without being able to conduct a practice, simply because there isn’t space to host one.
To gain a deeper understanding of the issues, it’s important to look at each sport, and, in that process, to note the work and the community activism that has gone on in Nebraska City to get the most out of the space that’s available.

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Clemmy Holmes
The most significant of the baseball fields in Nebraska City has under gone a major transformation since 2003 with some of that work having ripple effects that helped to build up other fields or programs.
The Nebraska City Baseball Association has fundraised significantly and has combined that work with a comprehensive plan that has garnered a great deal of funds from Nebraska City’s community foundations. All told, the final number for the value of improvements at Clemmy has been close to $750K since 2003.
Work really began with the construction of a concession stand that was not meant for use at Clemmy Holmes. Prior to the association’s construction of a new Jaycee concession stand near the Middle Diamond, the Jaycees has been operating out of a stand just outside the visitor dug out at Clemmy.
Tom Bales, former head coach of the high school baseball program and member of the Nebraska City Baseball Association, said all parties knew that in order for improvement plans to progress at Clemmy Holmes, the Jaycee stand would have to be relocated.
Since that move, the improvements at Clemmy Holmes have been numerous. Work began with new dug outs but has included all of the following, installation of a fence all around the field and a backstop fence, installation of batting cages and bullpens, installation of a by-inning scoreboard, installation of a fence all the way around the outside of the complex to create a single-point admission area, a new press box, a new concession stand and an improvement of the infield to level the surface and to install a new irrigation system which keeps the field soft for the slides of players and also preserves expensive field dressing which makes the field more able to withstand rainstorms and be ready for play soon after. Also of note is a garage built behind the home dugout which is used for storage.
The most recent project at Clemmy Holmes helped to add bleachers at the softball complex. Included in the building of the press box at Clemmy was a reconfiguration of bleacher space.
Because of that configuration, picnic tables were added both as an amenity and as a fundraiser. People and businesses were invited to sponsor the tables at a one-time cost of $1,000.
Bleachers left over from the project were then transported to the softball complex where they were re-installed. Even the short bleachers which were located in front of the old press box at Clemmy were kept and re-used between fields one and two at the softball complex.
With all of the work, Clemmy Holmes has become a gem for Nebraska City. Because the work happened gradually, many don’t know the story of how it came to pass and how hard people worked to see the project to conclusion.
Bales said he has worked with many great people on the baseball association and said he is very greatful for their hard work and for the generosity of the foundations which, combined with association dollars, made the work possible.
A comprehensive plan was key to the whole project. Bales credits Carl Abbott for coming up with the planning document that sparked movement and began the process towards improvement.
Beyond Clemmy Holmes, the Nebraska City Baseball Association has done significant work to support the youth baseball programs by donating equipment when possible and helping with improvement work on youth fields. The goal is to inspire youth to play ball by supporting their efforts and by making a great baseball program with a great facility that kids will look forward to being a part of someday.

Steinhart and Softball Complex
While the main baseball field has been improved, other fields for baseball and softball have not been neglected thanks to the formation of the Nebraska City Ballfield Improvement Association, which came into being back in 2013.
The first issues to be addressed were drainage and field dressing issues at the fields in Steinhart Park. Patrick Wehling, now the Parks Commissioner on the Nebraska City City Council, made a donation that corrected drainage issues and provided top dressing for the two Steinhart Fields with the agreement that the city would take over and maintain from that point forward. And the plan has worked well.
More recently, the scoreboard on the middle diamond was replaced, thanks in part to a grant from Grinnell Mutual, and dug outs were constructed at both the middle diamond and the tee ball field at Steinhart with the project reclaiming benches from the former municipal pool when it was replaced with the current aquatic center.
The Nebraska City Ballfield Improvement Association, the Nebraska City Softball Association and the Nebraska City Baseball Association have all participated in improvements at the Softball Complex.
Work at the Nebraska City Softball Complex has included a major lighting project that was just recently completed. Fields one and two received new lights and the fast pitch light poles were relocated. When the fast pitch field was created, space was reconfigured for its new purpose but lights were never moved. As a result of that and as the result of tree overgrowth, light on the field was diminished. Moving the poles created a safer and more playable condition at night.
In total, the lighting project had a cost of $281K with the Wirth Foundation providing $154K. The balance of the bill came from city funds. Light poles for the new lights on fields one and two came with a 25-year warranty.
Also new to the complex is a concession stand. Prior to the concession stand being built, almost entirely thanks to a donation, the teams that used the complex had to use a tent system for concessions, which was less than ideal.
The new concession stand provides a permanent structure that makes concession business easier to conduct and it also includes a fountain pop system that benefits all the teams and organizations that use the space. The pop is donated. As the result, groups which sell concessions are able to keep all of the profit from pop sales.
No doubt, work and maintenance will continue at the softball complex so that it can provide the most playable space and best overall environment possible.

Soccer Program
As noted earlier in this story, the Nebraska City Soccer Club plays in a space at the former Red Fox Run that might not be available someday.
The area of land is actually owned by New Tech Construction. Matt Watkins said the soccer program is especially appreciative to Jack Olson of New Tech for allowing the soccer program to continue to be on that land. Watkins said Olson could have future plans for the space and that he understands why soccer might be asked to leave the space someday. As a result, the soccer club feels a need to search for a new location for games.
That’s not easy.
First of all, it must be acknowledged that soccer takes up a ton of space with its biggest field for the older kids being larger than a football field.
If the area currently being used was no longer available, Watkins said the older teams in the program could be forced to travel for the majority of their games with the exception of the spring season when the older kids use the Nebraska City Public School field for soccer. The older teams play in the Eastern Nebraska Soccer Association and the Sarpy soccer league.
The younger teams in Nebraska City would be in scramble mode to find acceptable green space.
Even now, Watkins said practice space is a major issue. With many teams wanting to practice on Tuesday and Thursday, getting time on the current soccer fields is a tough proposition.
Soccer is also in a unique position because the organization isn’t able to take advantage of public space. Baseball/softball fields already exist that can be utilized. That’s not the case with soccer.
And space improvement on the existing field is impossible as well. While the soccer club fundraises and does the upkeep on fields, buys goals and nets and maintains and mows with its own equipment, it’s not possible to do improvements for fields not owned by the association or an affiliate of the association, like the city for instance.

Playing Space
When Nebraska City Public School Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey E. Edwards came to Nebraska City, the public school system had two full size gyms, one at the high school and one at the Middle School. Space at Hayward could also be utilized, but that space wasn’t as versatile as the other two gyms.
Since then, the school has added full size gyms at the high school and Northside, which brought the total space for games to five gyms. And it’s all been used.
Because NCPS doesn’t have a baseball or softball field for competition, it partners with the city and with youth teams. Recreation and traveling teams use gym space for practice, games and tournaments.
It would appear that the green space sports of soccer and baseball/softball would benefit from the addition of facilities in a similar way.
Dr. Edwards said he can definitely see a need for a sports complex. Edwards said the school allows use of its green space for teams and that competition for said space has resulted in the creation of a schedule to avoid conflicts.
On the city side, teams are using everything they can, including any green space at Steinhart Park.
Could more be utilized? Edmisten, Bales and Watkins all talked about using either Gregsport Park or the park at Kearney Hill. The space would require improved maintenance and possibly more work, dirt work for instance, to meet the needs of teams. And still, there are limits as far as use. Some teams would not be able to use it.
In addition to the football field at the high school, the field by the shot and discus rings and green space at Hayward and Middle School, Dr. Edwards said the school is looking into making green space playable at Northside. It would appear that the school would be maxed out at that point.
The addition of a sports complex would seem to make sense, not only for the game space, but because it would free up fields, currently being used for games, to be used for practice.
And it would allow teams to host tournament events that lock up the fields without freezing out all practice time.
Watkins said he feels Nebraska City should have a complex because towns smaller than Nebraska City, like Syracuse and Auburn, have found a way to build a space for baseball/softball and soccer.
Finding the space would be the major concern. But, it would seem, that the issue of need has already been addressed. Nebraska City has gotten as far as it can go with improvement, commitment and cooperation. The next step seems fairly obvious to all parties.