Advocates for soccer and baseball are both now contending for the turf at the ball diamond known as Field 6 at Bloomington’s Winslow Sports Complex.
Towards the end of Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s four-member board of park commissioners, several representatives from Bloomington Football Club (BFC) and Monroe County Senior League Baseball Association (MCSLBA) spoke from the public mic during general commentary time.
No action on the use of Field 6 was taken by the board on Tuesday. But earlier in the meeting, the board did approve an addendum to the partnership agreement between the city and BFC for the use of Field 5, which the board had previously approved at its March meeting.
A mix-up in the versions of the agreement that were exchanged between parks staff, BFC and the city’s legal department, had led the board to approve a version of the agreement in March that the two sides had not actually agreed on. That’s why the addendum was needed.
Field 5 and Field 6 are the ball diamonds in the southern part of the complex. Fields 1–4 form a cluster to the north.
Field 6 is currently home to the baseball association. But BFC is looking to expand its use of the complex to Field 6. That expanded use is based on growth of the club’s participation of around a dozen players in 2016 to 255 players in 2023.
BFC has sketched out a vision for its use of Field 6, which has been circulating in a document that drew objections from the baseballers for at least a couple of reasons.
The document talks about conversion of Field 6 to grass to be used for soccer. The document also calls for a decision by the parks board in April or May.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting against the idea of converting Field 6 for soccer use, especially on the proposed timeline, was Richard Field. He told the board that his two children have played baseball at Winslow’s Field 6 for the last couple of years. Field said converting Winslow’s Field 6 for soccer use would likely mean the end of the senior baseball league for ages 13 and up.
Field said he has nothing against soccer, adding “I’m not going to speak negatively about soccer as a sport or anything like that.” Field thinks there are other options within the city limits for additional space to play soccer.
Also addressing the board in support of baseball was Ashley Pirani, who is likely familiar as a member of the MCCSC school board—but she was not speaking in that role. Pirani was speaking as a new coach with the Bloomington Junior Baseball League and as a former baseball player.
Pirani objected to claims that by reserving space for baseball, the city is “catering to boys.” Pirani said, “Currently at Winslow, which includes Field 6, we have 12 percent female population there—so we have girls playing baseball on those fields right now.” She added, “They have been for a long time.”
In support of using Winslow Field 6 for soccer was Kathleen Field (no relation to Richard Field), who pointed out that soccer is the “world sport.” She continued, saying, “You don’t need a lot of equipment. There’s not a high barrier to entry.” What’s missing in Bloomington are the facilities that are needed to increase access, she said.
When Joe Fuschetto spoke, as a member of the BFC parent committee and a coach, he did not take a direct shot on the goal of securing Field 6 for soccer, but instead dropped back a bit: “What we’re asking for at this exact moment is a committee with the parks department…” Fuschetto called it an “exploratory committee” composed of “all stakeholders, including baseball representatives…to get more opportunities for soccer players in the city of Bloomington.”
By the end of the meeting, when public commentary came, board member Jim Whitlach had departed. Ellen Rodkey’s absence meant the four-member board was reduced to a sub-quorum number of two—Israel Herrera and Kathleen Mills. That meant no board action could be taken.
But Bloomington parks and recreation director Paula McDevitt indicated staff could put an item on the board’s May agenda that could start to address the question of additional space for soccer.
McDevitt said, “There is a path forward.” She added, “We appreciate the comments this afternoon from all sports that were represented.”
Tuesday’s board meeting offered a glimpse into Bloomington’s past, for both soccer and baseball.
Speaking in support of BFC was Aaron Stolberg, who told the board he grew up in Bloomington playing soccer. Finding quality fields to practice on was always a struggle, he said. Stolberg mentioned that he’d earned a scholarship to play college soccer, and played for a time with a professional team in Austin, Texas.
Stolberg played his high school soccer at Bloomington South in the early 1990s, and went on to play for Northwestern University. That meant when Stolberg’s NU Wildcats were scheduled against the Indiana University Hoosiers, he was matched up against a squad that included former Bloomington South Panthers Todd Yeagley and Ben Londergan.
As for local baseball nostalgia, Andy Hamilton had all the bases covered. He told the board, “My family stretches from Salt Creek to Grant Street to Clear Creek.”
Hamilton told the board his grandpa had sold the land to the city to finish the Winslow Winslow Sports Complex—what used to be a cow pasture is now the right field corner of Field 5. Alexander described coaching his son and watching the sport thrive in the 1980s.
Hamilton described what people did for entertainment in that era: “People didn’t go to the mall. They went to Winslow Sports Complex… It was the coolest place in town!” To lose Field 6 as a baseball venue, Hamilton said, would be “devastating.”