Manatee County officials accept $75,000 from Pittsburgh Pirates for Little League ballfields in Palmetto

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 18, 2013 

MANATEE -- Manatee County officials Tuesday formally accepted a $75,000 grant from a Pittsburgh Pirates-affiliated nonprofit for new ballfields in Palmetto.

Trevor Gooby of Pirates Charities said at the Manatee County Commission meeting: "We're beyond thrilled to assist."

Pirates' officials are looking forward to seeing the project completed, he said: "We're always looking for the next wave of talent."

The Pittsburgh Pirates use Bradenton's McKechnie Field as their spring-training venue.

The money will be used to help build Little League ballfields already under construction at Blackstone Park in Palmetto, officials said.

The ballfields are slated for completion before the fall 2014 baseball season starts, according to Tom Yarger, Manatee County construction services manager.

All contracts are in place on the $3.268 million project, and they're all on schedule, he said.

"It will be ready to open in August 2014," he told commissioners.

Derek Goforth, president of Palmetto Little League, said recruiting youngsters to play this year has been much easier than during the past few years.

"Everybody knows it'll be a state-of-the-art park, possibly the nicest Little League park in the county, and they're all anxious to call it home when it comes to their kids playing baseball," said Goforth.

The project calls for three new regulation Little League fields, parking lot, press box and concession building, bleachers, sidewalks, lighting and associated infrastructure at Blackstone Field, east and north of existing softball fields.

It is a joint effort by the county, the city of Palmetto and the Manatee County School Board.

In addition to the grant, the county will pay for the project using Parks and Natural Resources Department impact fees, along with an $800,000 contribution from the city of Palmetto.

"These kinds of public-private partnerships is how we get things done in Manatee County," said Commissioner Betsy Benac.

The Little League's former ballfields were eliminated after the city sold the land to the Manatee County School Board for construction of a new Palmetto Elementary School.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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