Chicago Little League Fields Protected

Chicago, IL 3/20/03 – The Trust for Public Land announced today the acquisition of 5 acres containing three baseball diamonds in the West Lawn neighborhood near the Midway Airport. The baseball park, owned and operated by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception monastery since the early 1960’s, will eventually become part of the Chicago Park District and continue to provide a place for Little League Baseball in a neighborhood underserved by park space.

The two senior and one junior ball fields, have been used and maintained by the West Lawn Little League for over 10 years and have supported little league baseball since the late 1950’s. The land was at risk of being acquired by developers, threatening the fields’ continued existence. The religious order, which had built and managed the fields adjacent to their monastery and printing press, needed to sell the land to support their Lithuanian Newspaper. To ensure that baseball would remain a part of the community, they sought a buyer that could guarantee protection. Approached by Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development, the Trust for Public Land agreed to pursue acquisition of the property and transfer ownership to the City. Eventually, the land will become part of the Chicago Park District, which will continue to manage the land for baseball.

Alderman Frank Olivo knows the importance of preserving baseball in his ward. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Children still get to play ball and the Community protects open space. This is great thing for keeping kids off the streets.” He also noted that at least two former little leaguers have gone on to join Major League Baseball including Lou Pote who pitched for the California Angels and Brian Nedza who recently signed with the Kansas City Royals.

Nearly a third of the funding for the acquisition came as a result of the direct efforts of Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, who represents the district where the ballfields are located. The $500,000 was secured through State Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) funds. Additional funding was provided through the Chicago Park District.

“Baseball in springtime is an American ritual,” notes Chris Slattery, Director of the Trust for Public Land Chicago Office. “We have a responsibility to continue to provide our children places to play in their own neighborhoods. We are making a commitment to the Chicago’s children by keeping these baseball fields available. The Marian Fathers and the West Lawn Little League should be praised for developing such an important community asset.”

Economically and ethnically diverse, West Lawn is among the group of underserved communities within Chicago, with an open space deficit of 20 acres. Furthermore, as of the 2000 census, West Lawn has seen a 24.8% increase in its resident population. The addition of the 5 acres of land will not only preserve the ball fields for use by community residents, but also begin to bring this neighborhood up to a minimum of 2 acres per 1,000 residents, which is the City’s goal for all neighborhoods.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national land conservation organization that is actively helping urban communities protect and restore land for people. In 1999 TPL opened an office in Chicago to focus on the open space needs in and around the City.