By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLES CITY — During their high school softball coaching careers at Charles City, Brian Bohlen and Dana Sullivan have seen many of their games — in particular home games — get postponed due to weather and flooding.
Usually with some creative rescheduling and/or site mobility, these games eventually get played.
But with a forecasted blizzard bearing down on the region on Feb. 23, the months-in-planning Sports Complex Banquet at the FFA Enrichment Center at the Floyd County Fairgrounds was suddenly in peril.
“I was a little worried,” said Sullivan, a Charles City High School teacher and assistant coach within the school’s softball program.
“Unlike games getting rained out, it would have been very difficult to reschedule something like this,” said Bohlen, head coach of the Comet varsity team. “We’re just grateful that we were able to get it in and for the support of the community who came out that night.
“We didn’t have too many no-shows.”
Not only did around 350 show up for the banquet that also included entertainment, they also brought their wallets.
“Our final total was around $76,000,” Sullivan said. “We wanted to reach $75,000. It wasn’t really a goal … just a round number we wanted to reach.”
As one of the more active committee members for a project that hopes to have a new sports complex just north of the city ready by the 2020 baseball and softball seasons, Sullivan has searched and secured numerous grants to assist the process — including a substantial one from the Minnesota Twins.
But when Sullivan first began applying for these grants, she learned that hitting just .200 or even .150 was going to be a challenge.
“You have to show that you’ve made progress in your project before they’re willing to help you,” Sullivan said. “That’s why having an event like this was so important. It helps us pick up a little more steam and public awareness, and improves our chances in securing more grants.”
You can liken that to a snowball rolling down a hill during a white-blasted winter.
According to the Sports Complex link on the school website, more than $500,000 has been raised. The Charles City Community School District has agreed to make a dollar-to-dollar matching contribution for the first $500,000 raised.
Bohlen said there will be more “ballpark figures” regarding the project at the next school board meeting on March 18.
“For people who have an interest in this, that would be a good meeting to attend,” said Bohlen, who anticipates the new fields will be among the best in the state.
“There are some fields I hope ours can be like,” Bohlen said. “Oelwein has a great sport complex … the way it’s laid out and where the dugouts are placed … the warning track in the outfield … the concrete base under the bleachers so weeds are not growing under them.
“They also have a great infield. We still play on crushed limestone which is outdated. Other new infields have more antiseptic surfaces.”
In addition to the volunteers and donors who contributed to the success of the banquet, Bohlen and Sullivan are also grateful for the squad of returning Comet baseball and softball players who assisted in setting things up and breaking things down, as well as catering to the patrons.
“And there were a lot of people there who weren’t listed as volunteers but stepped up whenever there was a need,” Bohlen said.