PINEDALE – Mayor Matt Murdock admittedly fired a few warm-up throws towards councilmember Tyler Swafford minutes before the ceremony began. People kept filing in and the pressure began mounting. So, fittingly, Murdock took more time to make sure that when the time arrived to play ball, he’d be ready.
The ceremonial first pitch came as the culmination for a near 25-minute ceremony that took years to even get to. It followed a speech from sponsors, family members, Swafford and an introductory address from Murdock himself. And while the Wind River Mountain Range could only vaguely be outlined in the distance because of wildfire haze engulfing Pinedale, at last the avidly outdoor community could celebrate its latest addition.
Pinedale residents gathered on the western outskirts of town for the grand opening of the new Dudley Key Sports Complex on Saturday, July 24. It’s an all-season, multi-purpose complex with fields for soccer, baseball and softball. There’s also a pond that will be filled by Game and Fish, areas for cross-country skiing and space for future softball and soccer fields as part of the project’s “master plan.”
Murdock said it was symbolic, those fields that house team activities, were built by consistent teamwork among town employees, contractors and construction workers – even community volunteers. It took involvement from the school district, health care entities and towns of Marbleton and Big Piney for this vision to finally come together.
“It’s been one of those things that I think a lot of us were waiting for a long time for a hospital, and it’s exciting to see that move forward,” Murdock said, “but these ball fields are a testament to everyone working together.”
In his opening address, Murdock said it was important to make sure the new sports complex looked good because not only did the community use the old ball fields, Pinedale is an outdoor community.
Bill Jones, the lead project manager from Jorgenson, said they wanted to build something for the future of Pinedale. That’s why lights and water can be controlled through a smartphone application for maintenance crews. He said there are over 400 sprinkler heads, 4 miles of irrigation piping and over 268,000-square feet of sod in the complex. Crews also moved about 70,000 cubic yards of Earth. Outside of the fields themselves, work was also done to construct close to 2 miles of trail systems around the complex.
“I’ve been on a lot of large construction projects throughout different parts of the nation and I will say it’s rare you get so many local parts invest, emotionally invest on a project,” he said.
Swafford, who is also on the town’s travel and tourism committee, said a complex for recreational sports will help move the town forward for the future and attract people to Pinedale. He talked about how important organized team sports have been to him throughout his life and how, in some way of creating this complex, it will pass on those traits to future generations.
“I just think this matters, not just for the youth in our community but for everyone in our community,” he said. “We’re a product of our environment and this is better for our overall environment.”
Pat Key also spoke during the ceremony, which opened yet another baseball and softball complex that bears his father’s name. Key talked about his father, from being raised in Kemmerer and Daniel since 1942 before his business degree at the University of Wyoming and time in the Marines. He returned to start baseball programs throughout Sublette County, which inevitably meant loaded vans driving to Jackson, Riverton, Green River and Rock Springs. Pat fondly remembered the stories of putting about 300,000 miles on that wagon, which sometimes meant stopping in Farson because a child got left behind and picked up by a parent in Lander.
They threw down mitts for bases and grew the game in Sublette County until full fields were finally built on the hill.
Key’s initial worries for losing his father’s memorial fields were put to rest and, with the help of a welcoming community, that memorial followed baseball to its new Pinedale home.
“My son jumped on board with me to make sure the memorial got moved down here with me,” he said. “Thank you to everybody for contributing to that.”
Amber Anderson of the Pinedale Aquatic Center said she also looked forward to future collaborations to bring more sports tourism to Pinedale. She said the new sports complex would enhance activities and involvement from the community.
In closing, she pointed those gathered to signup for the three-inning pickup softball game after the ceremony. Murdock followed with his toss to Swafford, which signaled a new beginning in Pinedale outdoor athletics.