Zionsville, Plainfield still at bat in Little League HQ pursuit

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Zionsville and Plainfield are still in contention to land Little League International’s Central Region headquarters, but Westfield has apparently struck out.

Little League International announced a year ago that it would relocate its Central Region headquarters from the northeast east side of Indianapolis and solicited proposals from other communities in the 13-state district.

A list of five finalists has been trimmed to three, the youth baseball organization confirmed Thursday in an email to IBJ. The league received more than 70 proposals for the headquarters.

“Matteson, Ill., Plainfield, Ind., and Zionsville, Ind., are the remaining communities under consideration for a new location that will offer adequate facilities, strong infrastructure, and a supporting community that appreciates and understands the ideals of Little League,” the statement said. “Little League will continue to work through its selection process with the communities under consideration. A decision on the new location will likely be made at the end of the calendar year.”

In addition to Westfield, Chicago also was dropped from contention.

The Central Region, which had been based at 42nd Street and Mitthoeffer Road, is one of five Little League offices in the United States. It was established in 1989 and oversees operations for about 26,000 baseball and softball teams and 375,000 players.

The facility each August had hosted the regional tournaments that lead up to the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon.

In February, Cathedral High School acquired the former Central Region headquarters for an undisclosed amount. The 35-acre property had been listed for $495,000.

Westfield pitched the use of its 400-acre Grand Park Sports Campus for the new headquarters and was given a test run this summer, when it hosted the Little League Softball Central Region Tournament from July 24-28 and the Little League Baseball Central Region Tournament from Aug. 6-12. Portions of the tournaments were telecast nationally on ESPN.

The Grand Park campus, which opened in 2014, has 26 diamonds, batting cages and concessions.

One strike against Westfield was the absence of a history with Little League. The city offers baseball through the Westfield Youth Sports organization, but does not have a Little League affiliate.

Meanwhile, Zionsville is betting on its long-running local Little League participation to convince the organization that the town would be the best spot. The Zionsville Little League started in 1963. In 2016, it had 800 softball and baseball players ranging in ages from 5 to 17.

Michael Rinebold, president of Zionsville Little League, said the town’s proposal suggested a few locations for new fields and offices, including land owned by Zionsville Community Schools.

Plainfield hosted three Little League tournaments in July at the four-diamond Al & Jan Barker Sports Complex at 451 S. Vestal Drive: the District 8 Tournament for 12-year-olds and the state tournaments for 10-and 11-year-olds.

The Plainfield Optimist Little League Baseball organization has been in existence since 1987.

Matteson, a village about 30 miles south of the Chicago Loop, has designated a 26-acre site for the headquarters in its bid.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have written letters of support for the Matteson effort.

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