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Make Room for Daddy: A field of dreams nears reality with south end development

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

Part Two in a series of articles

TOLEDO, July 9, 2018: There has been a lot of quiet activity in recent weeks at Danny Thomas Park, located at 2583 Broadway Street. But between the efforts of Toledo’s parks and recreation department and the Cal Ripken, Jr. Foundation, that crumbling park could see more than $1 million worth of renovations by the end of next summer, including a brand-new youth baseball stadium.

 


Danny Thomas

According to Chris Amato, director of Heritage South, $400,000 has been secured in state funding for park improvements. Toledo’s mayor and city council have pledged more than $300,000 in capital improvement funding for Danny Thomas Park. Heritage South also expects more funding in the 2019 city spending plan to leverage the Cal Ripken, Jr. Foundation investment.

If all plans on the drawing board receive funding of one sort or another, Amato predicts the overall park investment to approach $1.8 million over the next few years.

According to Amato, the foundation will spend at least $400,000 to build a new baseball field with artificial turf, dugouts, new fencing, and other amenities. The Atlanta-based group already has visited Toledo twice this summer, with a third visit planned this month. The foundation has funded and built nearly 80 such youth baseball fields, but the Old South End project will be its first in Ohio. The proposed stadium also can be used for soccer and possible lacrosse.

Cal Ripken, we’re told, will come in at least once or twice. He’s gone to every single dedication that they’ve done all across the country,” said Amato.

Danny Thomas Park is a two-tiered recreation facility, with basketball courts and a football practice field on the lower level and a baseball field on the upper tier. But underground is a former 15-million-gallon reservoir made of concrete. There will be some engineering done to see what that structure can support in the way of a baseball stadium.

“At one point the thinking was that we’d cave all that in, move the dirt, and level it out. That got to be too expensive,” said Amato. “This is going to be the neatest park in the city.”

Amato credits a group of former St. John’s High School classmates for doing the networking necessary to draw the attention of the foundation. He stated the class of 1969 has “a lot of wonderful and successful people in it.” Construction on the baseball field will start next spring with a 90-day build-out, which should put opening day sometime in the summer of 2019.

The current baseball diamond is named Dan Roman Field, after the man who partnered with Believe Center executive director Tonya Durán to form the Sports Academy Center in 1997.

“The Believe Center is primarily the beneficiary of this effort,” explained Amato. “They’ll be able to do their baseball, soccer, football. They’re looking at new, lighted basketball courts. We want to be able to do band concerts there—bring in the symphony, Bowsher High School. We want this to be a real neighborhood hub.”

There is also conversation about extending the park across Broadway, to a vacant property that once housed Newberry Elementary School, which has since been demolished. Toledo Public Schools still owns the property, but the Toledo Zoo grounds staff maintains it.

A community conversation was held to seek input from Old South End residents on what they’d like to see the park become. Heritage South continues to seek input and ideas as plans begin to form for the overall look of Danny Thomas Park. Some of those ideas include adding pickle ball or shuffleboard courts to give adults some recreational opportunities. Other possibilities include a new picnic pavilion and playground.

“If we can continue to attract businesses to that neighborhood in conjunction with what the Broadway Corridor Coalition is doing with its master plan, at least physically you’ll see a totally new neighborhood,” concluded Amato. 

 

Editor’s Note: Danny Thomas (January 6, 1912 – February 6, 1991) was a comedian, singer, actor, DJ, producer, and philanthropist, whose career spanned over 50 years. He created and starred in one of the most successful situational comedies in network television, called “Make Room for Daddy” (aired 1953 to 1964). He was born in Deerfield, Michigan in Lenawee County but raised in Toledo, Ohio. He graduated from Woodward High School and attended the University of Toledo. He is also a co-founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

On the Internet:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5VY2SQiZAE

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/17/18 14:10:57 -0700.

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