Accessible Ball Diamond to Open
A grand opening ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Topeka Accessible Ball Diamond in Gage Park is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., July 23, at what use to be Gage Softball Diamond No. 6 just east of the Discovery Center and across the street from the Adaptive Recreation offices in the Special Service Leisure Center.
The ribbon cutting ceremony will be followed by a clinic where people of all ages can learn about wheelchair softball from the KC Diamond Players, athletes of Kansas Accessible Sports. An adult wheelchair softball game will take place following the completion of the clinic. The public is invited to attend to celebrate this one of a kind ball diamond for Kansas.
Creation of the ball diamond was a collaborative effort through the partnership of Parks and Recreation of Topeka, the Parks and Recreation of Topeka Foundation, Schmidtlein Excavating, Schwerdt Design Group, Easter Seals Capper Foundation, TARC, Kansas City Royals Charities and Kansas Accessible Sports.
“Shawnee County has the highest percentage of people with one or more disabilities in the state,” said Terry Bertels, Topeka Parks and Recreation director. “The City of Topeka recognized the unmet needs of its citizens and supports a growing adaptive recreation program.”
The idea for the Topeka Accessible Ball Diamond began when a local Topekan working at a local radio station wanted to fulfill his child’s desire to play baseball, despite his child’s limited mobility. Cumulus broadcasting started a penny drive in 2004 to support this endeavor, which got the ball rolling. Schwerdt Design Group heard about the project and drew up the initial design, which was later finalized with input from The City of Topeka, Easter Seals Capper Foundation, TARC, Kansas Accessible Sports and The Miracle League. The Topeka Parks & Recreation Foundation helped by holding the funds donated by other partners and many individuals and by raising money through annual golf tournaments for an accessible restroom near the dugouts.
In 2010 the Topeka City Council approved the project and appropriated funds to build the diamond. Schmidtlein Excavating broke ground spring of 2011. The ball diamond facility has an accessible surface, open dugouts, plenty of accessible parking, and restrooms designed for easy wheelchair access.
The diamond is open to the public and can be reserved by calling (785) 368-3838.
Parks and Recreation would like to note that the ball diamond has unique rules. No cleats or hard balls that will damage or scuff the surface are allowed. While it is possible that this diamond could be used for other sports besides softball, please take bikes and skateboards to the city parks designed for their use.
Bertels noted that Topeka does not yet have a youth wheelchair softball league, but we will be developing one. If you are interested in participating in any way, please contact Amanda Bridges in the Adaptive Recreation department at (785) 368-0989.
Official wheelchair softball is played by people with permanent mobility limitations. Experience using a wheelchair is not important. Adults with lower limb impairments – regardless of cause – are welcome to come give the game a try! Sports wheelchairs in various sizes will be available to try out.