Little League International said it might consider sites outside of Zionsville for its new Central Region headquarters following public criticism of a residential real estate project associated with the high-profile development.
During a Zionsville Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Tuesday night, Little League Chief Financial Officer Dave Housknecht read a statement from Little League International CEO Stephen Keener that stated, “Little League International believes it’s in everyone’s best interest to begin exploring other options, both with the Zionsville Local Organizing Committee and potentially elsewhere within our Central Region.”
Williamsport, Pennsylvania-based Little League International announced in November it would locate its Central Region headquarters in Zionsville after a long multistate site-selection process. The youth baseball and softball organization's Central Region headquarters had been located on the northeast side of Indianapolis since 1989.
Zionsville was among 70 communities, including Westfield and Plainfield, to submit proposals. A 20-acre site at 8602 E. County Road 500 South in Zionsville was chosen for the complex.
The regional office oversees a 13-state district that includes operations for 26,000 youth baseball and softball teams and about 375,000 players. It also hosts the regional championship tournament in August that draws thousands of visitors and is traditionally broadcast on ESPN.
In March, Pulte Homes of Indiana filed paperwork with the town of Zionsville detailing its plans for a 57.7-acre site that includes the proposed Little League site. Pulte Homes had an agreement in place to purchase the land and donate 18 acres to Little League.
Under the plan, land bordering Whitestown Road would be occupied by Little League’s new headquarters, and the remaining land—about 40 acres—would be developed into a 78-home subdivision.
That proposal has drawn opposition from some neighbors, who say the subdivision was never included in early plans to bring Little League to Zionsville. They were concerned about the subdivision’s high density in a more rural area of town. They even launched a website, zvilleprojectconcerns.com, in opposition of the project. A petition on the site against Pulte's plan has received more than 500 responses.
Kevin Schiferl, whose property abuts the site, said those opposing the project aren’t against Little League moving in. They support the headquarters project but believe the housing project associated with it is too dense. They say the remaining land can responsibly accommodate 50 homes, not 78.
“There’s a notion out there we’re anti-baseball; that’s totally wrong. It’s not baseball,” he told IBJ.
The developer is seeking approval to deviate from the town’s development standards to construct the headquarters as well as the subdivision. On Tuesday, Pulte’s request was continued until the July board of zoning appeals meeting.
Keener’s statement said when Little League announced it had chosen Zionsville for the headquarters, the news was met with enthusiasm, but since then, there’s been some animosity.
“We take pride in being a community-based organization and a place where people can come together to provide children an enjoyable, meaningful activity,” the statement reads. “Through the relocation process, we have become increasingly aware of animosity and ill feelings from the Zionsville community toward the proposed site for our potential relocation.”
Michael Rinebold, president of the Zionsville Local Organizing Committee, which led the town’s efforts to bring the headquarters to Zionsville, said he’s disappointed in some of the neighbors' reactions. He said Pulte has been involved in the process since the land was identified for the project.
“It is unfortunate that the voices of a few individuals cancel out the thousands of the silent majority that wanted the Central Region to call Zionsville home as demonstrated over the course of the past two years that have gone into this project,” he said in written comments.
“I don't fault LLI for making the statement they did on Tuesday evening,” he said. “I still hold out hope that Zionsville will be that place and look forward to taking the next several days to ensure that happens.”
He implored residents who support the project to contact Zionsville town officials.
Representatives for Little League International declined to comment further on the situation, but confirmed the organization is exploring other options.
The organization doesn't have the option of staying at its former site at 42nd Street and Mitthoeffer Road. Cathedral High School announced in February 2017 that it had acquired the 35-acre property.
The facility, renamed Brunette Park, is about six miles from the Cathedral campus and contains baseball or softball diamonds, as well as offices, an indoor community center, covered pavilion and a parking lot.
The Zionsville Local Organizing Committee spent $20,000 on its proposal for the headquarters, with funding split between the town and the local Little League.
And as part of trying to win the bid, Rinebold secured pledges from community members to meet an ultimate required funding commitment of $1.5 million toward construction.
The first phase of construction, which is expected to include a championship stadium and support buildings like a press box and concessions, is estimated to cost $2 million. Pavilions, batting cages, maintenance offices and administrative offices are to be added once funding becomes available.