Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

The Soldotna City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a donation of $50,000 to the Soldotna Little League for repairs to structures at the Soldotna Little League Ball Park.

The proposed donation had been brought forward by Mayor Paul Whitney, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting. In his absence, Vice Mayor Lisa Parker read a statement from him. He said that the Little League and the field complex has benefited countless local youth, including his children and grandchildren, but its structures are reaching the limits of their usable life — like dugouts recently found hazardous and removed. He said the costs of replacing that equipment exceed the means of the Little League organization.

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities.

In requesting aid from the city, players and representatives of the Little League said their organization involves roughly 400 local children — and the fields are also used by the Soldotna High School baseball and softball teams and the American Legion’s baseball team.

Also spotlighted by the organization was the Challenger program, which provides opportunities to children with “physical and developmental challenges.” The Soldotna Little League started a Challenger team last year — the first and only in the state.

According to Little League board member Keith Pieh, some structures at the field are more than 30 years old. He said that repairing is “no longer an option,” and they’ve had to tear down nearly half of their wooden structures in the last four years.

The donation, he said, will be used to address the most pressing issues. Chief among those is the replacement of dugouts and an announcer booth on the field closest to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex — a field used by the Little League, SoHi baseball and American Legion baseball.

On Wednesday, one dugout had already been replaced at the field, with new benches and an open design protected by a screen of fencing. The other was in a state of construction. The announcer booth was just a sheet of plastic on an empty foundation.

Pieh said they’ve committed to SoHi baseball to see all three structures repaired before the Stars play their first home game on May 6.

Other projects the organization said would be covered with the funding is the purchase and installation of new safety covering for the tops of the fences and the construction of two chain link structures to house batting cage nets.

The costs of the projects, Pieh said, don’t include labor — all will be undertaken by “a skilled set of volunteers.”

Council member Jordan Chilson, in voicing support for the donation, pointed to the investment into and maintenance of the city-owned land by the Little League. Because of the way the city handles projects, he said they couldn’t hope to run the land at the level of cost borne by the organization.

“This is a steal of a deal for our community if you just look at it from a financial perspective — not to mention the value that it provides to the kids,” he said.

Members of the city council said they weren’t aware of any other time they had donated funds to the Little League. Parker encouraged them to return and seek further support — especially as the area sees investment and development through projects like the fieldhouse.

“Really, please come back,” she said.

For more information, find “Soldotna Little League” on Facebook. Their season opener will be on May 18. The ordinance and archived video of the meeting will be available at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Soldotna Little League Board President Billy Cannon holds a binder moments before presenting to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Little League Board President Billy Cannon holds a binder moments before presenting to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Linda Hutchings asks questions of Keith Pieh, a member of the Soldotna Little League board, during a Soldotna City Council meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Linda Hutchings asks questions of Keith Pieh, a member of the Soldotna Little League board, during a Soldotna City Council meeting in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A completed new dugout at the Soldotna Little League Ball Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A completed new dugout at the Soldotna Little League Ball Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A replacement dugout is under construction at the Soldotna Little League Ball Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A replacement dugout is under construction at the Soldotna Little League Ball Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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