Nebraska Municipal Power Pool chooses Gering for award

The crowd stands for the national anthem prior to one of last season's home games for the Western Nebraska Pioneers baseball team. The Nebraska Municipal Power Pool recently presented Gering with one of its Project of the Year Awards for community betterment.

The Oregon Trail Park ballfield project has been a big hit for recreation in the city in its first year of operation. Now it’s been named as a Project of the Year award recipient from the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool (NMPP).

The award was presented at the NMPP 44th annual conference in Lincoln on March 27. The award is for a member city that creates a more cohesive community, making it easier for city staff and employees to serve their customers.

Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Visitors Bureau, said Gering applied for the award at the encouragement of NMPP. “They were looking for projects that would have a long-standing impact in their communities,” she said. “We were fortunate to be one of three projects they select each year.”

Gering completed its Oregon Trail Ballpark in early 2018, in time to host the inaugural season of the Western Nebraska Pioneers. The Pioneers are a member of the Expedition League, a wood-bat college baseball league in the Midwest and Canada that competes during the summer.

The Pioneers led the league in attendance, attracting about 36,000 season fans from across the region. They also won the first league championship.

The Pioneers start their 2019 season May 24 on the road with a two-game series against the Casper Horseheads. The home opener is on May 28, a three-game series with new league member Fremont.

“Our new ballpark not only affects our quality of life for our residents, but also from a tourism and recreation standpoint,” Niedan-Streeks said. “The timing of the project and the planned expansion of the city’s Oregon Trail Park was excellent. It enhanced our vision for that new field to be added to our ballpark complex.”

Niedan-Streeks said our community is very supportive of sports and recreation, and the project had a tremendous impact on our local tourism industry during the league’s inaugural year. It’s going to continue growing exponentially as the city’s recreation services continue to grow.

She added that Gering was fortunate for the award when so many members have great things going on in their communities.

The Pioneers home field is part of a larger project to expand the city’s baseball facilities. Construction is planned this spring to site four new baseball/softball fields near the municipal swimming pool for use by youth leagues.

“This will improve our facilities for youth athletics,” Niedan-Streeks said. “It will increase the opportunity for local families to enjoy more games for our young people. The expansion will also allow us to bid for more regional tournaments. We see this as a tremendous investment in our community.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.