After several months of planning and preparation, a group of employees from Cedar Rapids’ Quaker Oats went to work Thursday to restore the baseball field at the Iowa Veterans Home to its former glory.
Navy veteran Brooks Dechant pioneered this initiative along with other members of the Quaker Valor group, and all of their efforts and fundraising paid off Thursday when they paid a visit to IVH.
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dechant and four other members of his group worked tirelessly to excavate and re-cover the old infield. In addition to redesigning the field itself, they also replaced the rotten poles, put up a new flagpole, and high pressure washed the concrete around the field.
Dechant said they started the project not knowing exactly what to expect as they had never done this type of project before, but with a few tweaks to their original plan they were off to a good start.
“We had a pretty good plan and had to make some adjustments and changes, but it’s progressing well,” said Dechant.
In addition to the work done by the Quaker Oats team, Dechant said employees from their contractor, Greg’s Lawn and Landscaping, were also with IVH to help, and several local donors and individuals made the project possible with their contributions.
Martin Marietta Quarry donated the infield footage, and Dechant said Jake Rowley of Junk Relief Services was extremely helpful throughout the process. Several other community partners have donated funds to the project, including the Mitchell Family Funeral Home, Johnson Lawn Care, Adland Engraving and Screenprinting, and more.
“We had a lot of very generous people in the community,” Dechant said. “We were very lucky. When they found out about it, everyone in the area seemed to be like, ‘Yes, I grew up and played there, what a good idea, how can I help?’”
The short-term goal, completed by the end of the day on Thursday, was to get the field playable again, but Dechant said they have other plans they would like to complete in the near future.
A local artist will paint a mural on the retaining wall behind the field and a local company will occupy the field’s concession stand and tool shed. Dechant also hopes they can get a concrete contractor to install a wheelchair-accessible pavilion so residents of the facility can come and watch baseball games.
“Long term we want to build new fences and new backstops, possibly irrigation. We have a big wish list that just depends on how much money we can raise,” Dechant said.
While not every item on the wish list will be completed immediately, in the meantime, they plan to host a little league baseball tournament on September 17 to present the established field to IVH residents. Four teams are invited to the grand reopening.
Individuals and companies interested in contributing can reach Dechant at Brooks.Dechant@pepsico.com.
Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611