The Ottawa Recreation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to eliminate the batting cages, which sit in the west gravel parking lot at the complex, 106 Beech St., Ottawa.
“We are going to seek a buyer for the equipment and then return the area to parking lot,” Tommy Sink, ORC director said. “It will be a process, it isn’t going to happen overnight by any means.
“First thing I’ll do is try to sell it as an entire unit and I can do that by going through parks and recreations in the state of Kansas and advertising it ... even nationwide. If we can’t sell it as an entire unit, which is our preference, then we will see if maybe different folks would want to buy a couple pitching machines [individually] to replace some of theirs and things along that line.”
Discussion of eliminating the five batting cages arose when the equipment suffered an estimated $12,000 in damages during a recent storm. During a 12-year period, the batting cages have brought in $11,855.20 in income, though the total expenses related to the cages total were $111,340.85, according to ORC documents. The first payments on the construction of the equipment were in October 2002, with the final purchase and installation in February 2009, according to the documents.
The cost to use the automatic batting cages was $1 for one token, which amounted to 20 pitches.
Chris Lamar, Ottawa, a community member attending the ORC meeting, suggested a theory that might have contributed to the low use and income of the cages, he said.
“The only comment I have is, during the season, I was out there for my son’s ball practice, and my daughter would get in to use it, and I don’t know how many times we’d put money in it and get one ball,” Lamar said. “I know usage was probably down because of the maintenance factor of not being able to utilize it more.”
“As far as maintenance costs, it is not a lot, but there are daily trips down there [because], you know, balls get stuck,” Blanco said. “We’ve had theft of the baseballs the last couple of years. You can stand up there and catch them and walk off with them if you want and that’s been a big problem.”
A variety of items have been found stuck in the machines through the years, Sink said.
“In those machines, we’ve found beer cans, tennis balls, golf balls, artificial fingernails, rocks, bird nests ... just about anything you can fit in there really,” he said. “Those are the kinds of maintenance problems we have with it. It is not the machines themselves.”
“It’s not a new issue,” he said of people sticking items in the equipment. “The machines are reliable until something like that happens.”
The board ultimately decided the best option was to have Sink attempt to find a buyer for the cages.
“There is nothing cost-effective about having someone baby sit those machines out there,” Dennis Tharp, ORC board member, said. “As a courtesy, if nothing else, I think we should talk to some of the community leagues whether it be the high school or some of the other leagues around and say, ‘Hey, we’ll make you a deal if you are interested in this machine.’”
Richard Burgoon, ORC board president, expressed similar sentiments.
“To me, it’s a thorn in our side and we need to make a decision on this,” he said. “We are not going to make money on it.”
Sink was unsure how much selling the unit would net the ORC, he said, and also didn’t want to speculate on a timeframe for completing the sale.
“The sooner the better, but it is like anything else ... Someone might buy it tomorrow or it might take six months,” he said.