Portola Valley: Ford Field fundraising drive looks promising

Click on picture to enlarge.

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

The goal seems within reach of finding $588,000 to begin a project to renovate Ford (baseball) Field at 3399 Alpine Road in Portola Valley in time for the spring 2013 baseball season.

The Alpine-West Menlo Little League, having donated $50,000, pledged another $50,000, according to a recent report to the Town Council. Meanwhile the Sand Hill Foundation, which put on the table a matching grant of up to $100,000, has shown a willingness to consider some funds from the Little League and the town as fulfilling the criteria to qualify for a match.

A unanimous council on May 9 gave Public Works Director Howard Young the go-ahead to solicit bid packages. The timing is tight; if the project doesn't start in June, autumn rains could foil the planting of the sod.

With two state grants totaling $232,000, private donations of $18,500 so far, and a private pledge for another $10,000, the project would still have a projected shortfall of about $149,500, according to a report by Parks & Recreation Committee chair Jon Myers.

The Little League has also shown a willingness to contribute up to $40,000 more toward the shortfall, with the town making up the rest.

Clarification: Possible sources for the remaining $109,000 could include up to $40,000 from the town's general fund, another $48,500 paid by the town for preliminary project costs, and another $22,000 in donations.

If the fundraising goals go unmet, the council still has the option of pulling the plug on the project in June.

The town had an ace in the hole at one time that, even though its clout is much diminished, might be useful: a gift of $2.6 million in restricted stock related to naming rights for the baseball field at Town Center, stock that is now unrestricted and now saleable but now worth only $75,000, Councilman Ted Driscoll said.

In return for its financial assistance, the Alpine-West Menlo Little League -- the sole organized user of Ford Field -- requested several conditions in a letter. Among them: a limit to annual field user-fee increases of no more than 10 percent, and a town review of the status of the so-called "resurrection" tree, a diseased, elderly and fragile hollowed-out oak that, with the help of external supports, overlooks the home team dugout along the first-base line.

The letter also put a shot across the town's bow: "The town will consider the costs related to liability for personal injury as part of its review."

The town commissioned independent arborists to investigate the tree's health in the spring of 2008. The verdicts in six reports were uniformly negative for the tree, but it got a reprieve thanks to significant moral support in town and having responded well to having its foliage trimmed.


Like this comment
Posted by ashamed of our community
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I would love to give a decent amount to this fine cause but the town's position on the 'resurrection' tree is ridiculous and shows a lack of common sense and a disdain for sports and kids. So no funds from me.

Sorry to post anonymously but I do not want my kids to suffer from my posting an unpopular reply.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

The tree should go. It has to be supported by a metal pipe/brace! If nature had been allowed to take its course, the tree would have come down on its own a long time ago. Plant several others in its place and dedicate them to the largest donors. Heck, there is room to plant a small oak forest! The tree is an eye sore and should go!

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous too
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on May 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm

How does the Little League have so much money?

Like this comment
Posted by Contrarian view
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Little league baseball is a great experience. I have played on and coached teams on Ford Field. However, the sad truth is that enrollment in Alpine West Menlo Little League as well as Menlo Atherton Little League (they used to be a single league but were split many years ago) has been on a sharp and steady decline.

Three seasons ago, Alpine LL majors fielded 10 teams of 12 players each with another 40-50 players who did not get drafted onto a majors team. Due to low enrollment, the league has shrunk the number of teams in each of the last three seasons. This year, Alpine was barely able to field 7 teams with NO players players on the undrafted list. In fact, this year, there is a team who doesn't even have enough players and has to 'borrow' players from competing teams.

You get my point. 8-12 year old kids (boys) are opting for Lacrosse these days. Popularity of the sport has risen ridiculously fast with club organziations and most middle and high schools launching competitive programs in the last 2-4 years.

Here is the punchline...the town should at least consider developing Ford Field as the pre-eminent local LACROSSE field for local league and school play.

Seems like a better use of resources to support an undeniable trend in youth sports.

Like this comment
Posted by Tim Goode
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on May 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Just to correct Contrarian, LL numbers are not down. We have experienced a slight increase in enrollment in each of the last 3 years. We have shrunk the majors to seven teams but not for lack of players. Three years ago we had 10 teams and that included 9 and 10 year olds. The league now requires 9 year olds to play minors instead of majors.

The league also re-structured its minor leagues so there is age appropriate competition. The increased competitiveness of minors and the opportunity to play a meaningful role in a quality minors program rather than a secondary role on a majors team has caused most 10 year olds to opt for minors rather than majors. These moves with 9s and 10s has shrunk our available majors player pool.

We now have 20 minor league teams. Next year we will have 8 majors, teams too. We now schedule minors games on Ford to allow access for more levels.

We aren't losing kids to lacrosse. In fact, lacrosse is a shadow of what it was in the community in the 70s.

Our numbers have had minor increases each of the last three years. Little League is vital and thriving. I also understand M-A will go add another majors team next season.

We look forward to working with the town to revitalize Ford Field into a model little league field that will serve the community for years to come.

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