Christenson Field will transfer ownership this summer, but the field will continue to exist for the love of baseball and community, as it has for decades.
Southeast Community College in Beatrice plans to close on the sale of the ballpark near July 1, said Campus Director Bob Morgan. The college is buying the field from Legion Eagles Baseball Incorporated.
“In our society of today, we don’t have the volunteers that we used to have and it’s a major deal taking care of a ballpark year-round,” said Ron Cullison, president of the Legion Eagles Baseball Incorporated board of directors. “There are a couple of young guys on our board, but the majority can’t get out and do things we need to do, though for the past couple of years, we have been.”
Cullison said the group put in new lights at the field, which ended up costing $120,000. Then, there wasn’t enough money for other upgrades and replacements that later came up, he said.
“It became a struggle to keep operating it and keep it in the condition we were used to having it in,” Cullison said. “We just thought we did not have the resources to operate it and keep our heads above water. We came up with the idea to offer it to the college because they have the resources and finances to keep Christenson Field the quality and caliber of the field that it is.”
Several teams play at Christenson Field, including the SCC men’s baseball team in Beatrice, the Beatrice High School baseball team and the Legion Eagles junior and senior baseball teams.
The field was built in the early 1970s, according to the SCC website, and was donated by I.G. Christenson to Legion Eagles Baseball Incorporated.
“The Christenson family had a strong interest in baseball for many, many years,” Morgan said. “We appreciate the Christenson family, but we also appreciate the Legion Eagles for operating the field as long as they have and being good stewards of baseball.... We look forward to continuing baseball at Christenson Field.”
The college purchased the ballpark, which includes a grandstand, press box and concession stand, for $40,000.
Cullison passed along appreciation to Gary and Gail Berke, who are long-time supporters of the field and were on the board of directors for many years.
“I.G. Christenson donated this land so kids would have the opportunity to play baseball,” Cullison said. “The Berkes kept that idea going. They certainly need to be commended and thanked for their service given not only to baseball but to the community of Beatrice.”
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Morgan and Cullison spoke highly of the field, both in terms of quality and its nearness to the hearts of many.
“Christenson Field is one of the finest facilities in the state of Nebraska,” Cullison said. “We’ve had compliment after compliment over the years. And a lot of great players have come through there.... It has quite the history. It’s been home to a number of teams over the years.”
Cullison said he coached the Legion Eagles junior team for 19 years, helped start the SCC baseball team, was a volunteer assistant to the Beatrice high school baseball team and coached and helped with other baseball teams in Beatrice.
“I’m kind of torn because (the field has) been a part of my life for 47 years, between coaching and being out there taking care of it,” Cullison said. “I used to mow it. I helped with a lot of volunteer projects before I was even on the board.
“It means a lot to a lot of people who have come through the baseball program over the years and a lot of people put in a lot of hard work (at the field).”
Cullison said the Legion Eagles Baseball Incorporated helped get the field started and will consider a name change after they are no longer operating the ballpark.
“We’re still going to stay active,” Cullison said. “We are going to continue to support the teams that play out there.”
He said the group will financially support teams, mainly its own summer baseball programs, and help with projects at Christenson Field.
“There are lots of projects that need to be completed and started by the college, and I think they will,” Cullison said. “We’ll certainly try to help them in every way. (The SCC baseball coaches) and Bob Morgan ask a lot of questions and know how to take care of the field.... I’m pretty confident the college can take the ball and run with it.”
Of all three SCC campuses, the Beatrice SCC campus is the only one to offer intercollegiate athletics.
Officials have revealed proposed overhauls to all three campuses, which will be on voter ballots in November. The Beatrice campus overhaul is planned to include a new baseball field that would be constructed sometime in the next 10 years.