Summertime baseball for some midtown teenagers has fallen victim to Omaha's sewer project.
Grover Baseball lost its lease on the ball diamond at 64th and Bancroft Streets where high school boys played recreational baseball. After 17 years there, the organization played its last games on the field this summer, said Jim Teeters, president of Grover Little League and Baseball.
The Metropolitan Utilities District, which owns the land, is selling it to the city for use as part of Omaha's $2 billion sewer overhaul. Eventually the land may be transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha for use as a parking lot for the university's proposed $76.3 million arena.
“We're kind of disappointed with the whole deal,” Teeters said. “Now what are the kids going to do?”
Teeters said the field was similar in size to the one at Rosenblatt, and the organization can't afford to build another one somewhere else. If enough boys show interest, Grover will organize a traveling team that would play at other Omaha fields.
The three Grover Little League fields near Grover Street are not at risk because the organization owns that land.
But the closing of the Bancroft Street field takes with it a slice of life in midtown Omaha, Teeters said.
The field served boys 15 to 18 who didn't play high school or competitive baseball.
“This field allowed you to be a teenager,” Teeters said. “That's the whole difference. You could still play a little baseball, drive a car, find a girlfriend. That's what that field did.”
Teeters said that three years ago, MUD declined to renew the club's lease, and ever since then, Grover officials had been worried about the field's future.
Absent the city's purchase, the field may have closed in the future because of UNO's expansion in the area. A preliminary arena plan that UNO presented to the NU Board of Regents includes a parking lot where the ballfield sits.
Ron Bucher, senior vice president and general counsel for MUD, said the utility is selling the land because it has no use for it.
MUD advised the city that UNO was interested in the property, so that the two entities could coordinate, he said.
Bill Conley, UNO's vice chancellor for business and finance, said UNO would be interested in the property if the city doesn't need it.
The city is negotiating a $1.5 million deal with MUD to acquire two easements and 14 acres south of Center Street.
The city plans to build a stormwater treatment plant to resolve a problem that predates the ballfield, said Marty Grate, who oversees Omaha's sewer project. Stormwater pouring into the city's sewers overflows, sending raw sewage into the Little Papillion Creek.
The new plant will screen debris, settle out solids and disinfect runoff.
“It's a reality right now: Raw sewage is being discharged,” Grate said. “We'll improve the situation.”
Grate said the city hasn't settled on a final design for the $72 million treatment plant.
One proposal would use the ballfield area as a staging area for construction equipment, and if that's the case, the land could become surplus in several years.
If the ballfield area proves to be excess land, the city would consider selling it to UNO, he said.
“We have had discussions with them about that,” Grate said. “We would be willing to sell that to them once we've gotten our project done.”
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