Normoyle park



Keywords: normoyle park
Description: Two years ago, the San Antonio Seniors Softball League enlisted an architectural firm to develop a plan for Normoyle Park, the popular but dilapidated South Side institution where SASSL plays its games. The $2.7 million proposal was a beautiful vision, but it wasn't necessarily the vision of South Side residents, who long for everything from a playground canopy to a one-stop senior center at the park. [...] a major — but predictable — snag has emerged. The senior league reconfigured Field 3 — formerly a baseball park — to make it a regulation softball field, but Salas says he and his kids were squeezed out in the process. Salas and other South Siders appreciate the investment that SASSL has made in Normoyle, but some of them worry that the park is slipping away from its original role as a public facility, and catering to a private entity largely composed of people from outside their community.

Two years ago, the San Antonio Seniors Softball League enlisted an architectural firm to develop a plan for Normoyle Park, the popular but dilapidated South Side institution where SASSL plays its games. The idea was to provide the city with a vision for how 2012-17 bond money could be used to create a four-field softball complex sufficiently state-of-the-art to bring national tournaments to San Antonio.

The $2.7 million proposal was a beautiful vision, but it wasn't necessarily the vision of South Side residents, who long for everything from a playground canopy to a one-stop senior center at the park.

Since then, a major — but predictable — snag has emerged. Normoyle Park got the fuzzy end of the bond-program lollipop, with an allocation of only $500,000. SASSL and South Side residents now find themselves scrambling for a small pool of funds that they all agree is woefully inadequate.

By any calculation, SASSL — a nonprofit organization created in 1987 by lifelong baseball nut Bill Altman — has been a great asset to the park.

By the time he created the senior league, Altman, 82, had served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force at Randolph AFB and founded the Northeast Herald newspaper. Altman grew up in Detroit, where he took a job at the age of 10 as an usher at Briggs Stadium just so he could have a free pass to watch the Tigers play.

Under Altman, SASSL has developed a unique public-private partnership with the city. The league has pumped $50,000 into Normoyle Park for field improvements over the last four years, while the city has matched that investment by giving SASSL rent credits at Normoyle Park. The league has first dibs on Field 3, the primary softball field at the park.

That's a sore subject for Gilbert Salas. a youth-baseball coach who has devoted much of his adult life to mentoring South Side baseball prospects.

The senior league reconfigured Field 3 — formerly a baseball park — to make it a regulation softball field, but Salas says he and his kids were squeezed out in the process.

“That was one of the only baseball fields available for any youth or high-school player to go practice at, and I used to rent it,” Salas says. “Now there is no baseball field for the youth in our community to go.”

Concerns about the bond tend to obscure the underlying questions about the role of public parks in San Antonio.

Salas and other South Siders appreciate the investment that SASSL has made in Normoyle, but some of them worry that the park is slipping away from its original role as a public facility, and catering to a private entity largely composed of people from outside their community.

As for the bond itself, there is considerable overlap between the goals of SASSL and community firebrands such as Salas.

SASSL would like to build a fourth field at the park, which would be available for senior-softball tournaments, but primarily serve as a soccer field (part of the wish list for South Side youth-sports proponents). Altman and Salas also share a desire to see concessions added to the park, as well as the refurbishing of restrooms that Salas describes as “very terrible.”

Altman insists that the creation of a full-fledged complex at Normoyle could attract at least four national tournaments and generate close to $700,000 a year for the local economy.

It would also provide an aesthetic boost to the park, according to T.C. Calvert. an East Side activist who supports SASSL's objectives.

“Normoyle Park should be a point of pride,” Calvert says. “It needs to be a facility where people all over the state say, 'We're playing at Normoyle Park and we're excited about going there.'”

District 5 Councilman David Medina. whose district includes Normoyle Park, has hesitated to identify his top priorities for the park. In a statement Thursday to the San Antonio Express-News, Medina listed the various suggestions made for the park and said: “My priority as a council member is to help the community see their ideas realized.”






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