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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
A baseball field and playground aimed at serving children and adults with disabilities could become a reality in Dubuque next year.
Miracle League of Dubuque hopes to begin construction in the spring, with the new ballfield and "all-inclusive" playground opening in the fall of 2019. Organizers have raised $2.2 million of their $3.5 million goal for the project, and they plan to seek a $500,000 state grant.
"We really would like to play our first Miracle League baseball game in the fall of 2019," said Merle Santjer, president of the board for Miracle League of Dubuque. "That's always been our objective."
Plans call for the construction of a baseball field in Veterans Memorial Park in Dubuque, along with a playground with equipment that can be used by children with different ability levels.
Officials also plan to construct a pavilion area that includes Americans-with-Disabilities-Act-accessible bathrooms, a quiet room, two classrooms, an ADA-accessible concessions stand and a family picnic area.
"It's very much family-oriented, and obviously, we're thinking of families that may be coming a half-hour to two hours away to watch a son, daughter, granddaughter play the game," Santjer said.
He said the closest comparable facility of which he is aware is located in Ankeny, Iowa. The national Miracle League counts more than 300 affiliated organizations globally, according to the organization's website.
Officials plan to seek a $500,000 grant through Iowa Economic Development Authority. As part of that, they are asking the City of Dubuque and Dubuque County to each agree to donate 10 percent of the amount received from the state in the grant.
As part of the grant application, Miracle League officials are required to line up cash contributions from both the city and county.
The rest of the needed money will be raised through private donations and other grants, Santjer said.
Earlier this week, Santjer and Tom Witry, who helped launch the Miracle League of Dubuque effort, spoke with the county Board of Supervisors about their plans to apply for the state grant.
The supervisors expressed their support for the project, particularly noting how much of the funds had been raised through private dollars.
"It's going to be a destination for Dubuque County, for this area, so I think it's a great project," said Supervisor Dave Baker.
Miracle League of Dubuque officials intend to give the facility to the City of Dubuque once it is completed and turn responsibility for programming and maintenance over to the city, Santjer said.
The group is working with city staff on an operating agreement outlining how that would work.
Dubuque Leisure Services Manager Marie Ware said the agreement between the two entities still is being negotiated.
She said working with the Miracle League of Dubuque board has been exciting and that the plan is an "amazing" one for the community.
"It's a project we're all excited about, and you have to work through this stuff that you work through to get to the fun stuff," Ware said. "Really soon here, we're going to get to the fun stuff."
Santjer said he was encouraged to see support for the project across the community.
"We have many corporations, businesses, as well as individuals and volunteers, that believe in the vision of Miracle League, to have this kind of facility locally to benefit children who have special needs and their families," he said.
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