Gilbert field supervisor Rick Acuna isn’t worried that the municipal ballfields he manages will sit empty when a Big League Dreams sports park opens in town.
Acuna makes sure that the four softball fields at Gilbert’s Freestone Park, on Guadalupe Road east of Lindsay Road, are manicured.
White foul lines are painted weekly, outfield grass is mowed three times a week and an infield sprinkler system keeps an absorbent mixture of sand and clay ready for play.
But within two years, softball fields with all the trimmings are scheduled to open about four miles away at Elliot District Park, on Elliot Road between Recker and Power roads. A Big League Dreams sports complex will come with eight baseball/softball fields decorated as replicas of famous major league fields.
Town officials see the new complex, a publicprivate partnership estimated to cost Gilbert more than $22 million to build, as an economical way to alleviate a field crunch.
In a growing town of 170,000-plus, two Little League complexes and four adult softball fields haven’t been enough. So with that kind of demand, Acuna is sure the Freestone fields won’t be neglected.
The 113 teams that use the four-field complex at Freestone for adult softball love the facilities, said recreation programmer Kurt Sharp, who coordinates adult sports in Gilbert.
"As far as municipal fields go, it’s going to be hard to find them as nice as these," Sharp said.
The Freestone fields have some of the most expensive league fees in the Valley — $525 per season for doubleheader league and $300 for a single one — Sharp said. Big League Dreams officials say league fees at the company’s Gilbert park would be equal to or slightly more than the Freestone fees.
Sharp also said he isn’t worried about the Freestone leagues losing teams to the newer park.
Currently, "this is the only adult softball complex for 170,000 people," Sharp said. "We can definitely coexist."
Acuna said Gilbert National Little League and Gilbert American Little League have exclusive use of fields at McQueen Park and Crossroads Park, respectively, so he was unsure how much they would use Big League Dreams for games. That will be up to the leagues to decide, he added.