ENTERPRISE — There was no gold-plated shovel, as is common at formal groundbreakings, but an impressive track hoe did the trick Wednesday, July 8, as some of the organizers of a new, 8,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility gathered at Jensen Ball Fields in Enterprise.

“It’s been a work in progress for over two years,” said Kate Fent, of the Wallowa County Athletic Network. “There have been a lot of meetings and a lot of people involved.”

She said the network has been working on the project to give Wallowa County kids a place to play and practice during cold and wet weather. The multipurpose facility will include a turf playing field, restrooms and storage. It’ll be particularly useful in the winter, when school gymnasiums are in use. Baseball and softball programs also will be able to use it.

Fent said the project originated with an idea put forth by Dick and Cathy Johnson, who donated the first $20,000 toward it. Dick Johnson is a former baseball coach who knew firsthand the need for a practice area local athletes experience during Wallowa County’s winter and spring weather.

In late 2018, the network — through the city of Enterprise — received a $250,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation it applied for early that year. The network also has received matching donations totaling $125,000 from a variety of private and public individuals and groups.

“It’s really taken the whole county to make it happen,” Fent said. “It’s pretty amazing how many people jumped on board when they heard what we’re doing.”

“That’s because they all had kids involved and all have gone through the same experience of inclement weather,” added Jim Nave, an engineer with Devco Engineering of Enterprise and a baseball coach.

Nave did the concept work and his time was donated by Decvo, he said.

Fent said that while the network has received the majority of the funding, it’s still seeking funds for the artificial turf for the inside.

She had approached city council in March 2018 to see if it would support the project, which they did on a unanimous vote. The city agreed to serve as a “pass-through” organization to handle the grant money.

In June 2018, Fent and fellow organizers Nave and J.R. Collier, made a presentation to the Enterprise Parks and Recreation Commission to get its support, which turned out to be positive.

Fent said she’d soon have all the donors listed on the network’s Facebook page expressing gratitude for their generosity. She offered her particular kudos to the city of Enterprise.

“We came in with a big idea and they rushed it through and made it happen,” she said.

Although unable to attend the groundbreaking, Enterprise City Administrator Lacey McQuead also was enthusiastic about the project.

“This is such an incredible opportunity for the youths of Wallowa County,” she said. The network “has worked hard to make something that was but a vision come to a reality. The city of Enterprise and beyond proud to be a part of this project.”

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