Alice Little Miss Kickball has for years campaigned to host the annual state tournament here in the Hub City.
One of the more active kickball leagues in Texas, the league’s push has always encountered one major obstacle — it doesn’t have enough kickball fields to be the site of the Little Miss Kickball International state tournament. The Alice league, which plays its games at the kickball fields at what the city calls the West Sports Complex between North Cameron and Adams streets, is short a field. It has three Little Miss Kickball regulation fields, but it needs at least four.
That might be changing soon thanks to a plan by the City of Alice to use money from its Hotel Occupancy Tax fund to renovate its existing ballparks and eventually build a fourth kickball field.
The city’s plan was approved this week by the Alice City Council, which granted $175,000 from the HOT fund for the first phase of the project. Later phases of the project could be included in the city’s next budget.
The improvements planned include work on the existing baseball, kickball and softball fields, including new bleachers, repairs to concession stand and restroom facilities and reconditioning of the infields, park fences and lighting. The parks’ scoreboards and dugouts will also be renovated. The fourth kickball field will likely be built by the old armory building at the West Sports Complex, said City of Alice director of community development Josh Flores.
The city’s improvement plan includes at least nine of 10 fields, including fields at Anderson Park, Optimist Field and Bobby Cuellar Park.
Funds from the Hotel Occupancy Tax can only be used to promote and increase tourism. That means to qualify for the improvements from this project, the parks must at least have the possibility of attracting area, regional or statewide tournaments.
Alice city manager Michael Esparza said ultimately, the city wants the improvements to yield a return in the form of these tournaments, which in turn means an increase in visitors to the city and an economic boost to the economy.
“Our main goal in rehabilitating these parks is to allow the leagues to go after state tournaments, regional tournaments and district tournaments which means tourism for our community,” he said.
Alice Little Miss Kickball league president Jimmy Blair said the renovations and the addition of a fourth field would almost solidify the Alice league landing the state tournament in the near future.
“It’s been something that’s been floating around for a long time,” Blair said. “The one thing that’s prevented us from getting the tournament here is that fourth field. That’s the only thing that has kept us from a state tournament in Alice.”
The Little Miss Kickball International state tournament includes three divisions with at least 15 teams. Each team includes 12 girls, so in all the tournament would include at least 540 young athletes from Fort Worth to Brownsville to Corpus Christi, and of course Alice.
This year’s state kickball tournament is in Brownsville from July 5-8.
Alice is sending its all-star teams to the tournament, and Blair said between those days, the Alice teams will stay in Brownsville hotels and eat around the city as well. It’s something that he said would play out here if Alice hosts the state tournament.
“We’re talking about people staying in all of our hotels and motels and eating in our restaurants,” he said. “We’re talking about people coming down here and going to the movie theater and the swimming pool and our stores.”
The issue of renovating the city’s ballparks initially came up in May when the city council was presented with a plan to build a skate park with money from the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund.
It was a well-received plan, but Alice mayor Jolene B. Vanover urged the council to consider repairs the city’s existing parks. She went as far as to tour each of the city’s 10 fields and photograph deficiencies. Currently, those fields are being used by several leagues and organizations.
“This is something that is long overdue,” Vanover said. “A lot of people use our field every day, and they’re in bad shape. A skate park would be nice, but if we have funds, we need to fix what we already have right now.”
The council ultimately decided to shelve the skate park plan and renovate the ball parks.
The City of Alice isn’t the only entity to realize the potential of quality ball fields. In McAllen, voters will decide the fate of a proposition in November, which if passed, would allow that city to borrow $15 million for a 16-field youth baseball complex and build six softball fields at the city’s Municipal Park, according to The McAllen Monitor.
McAllen is hoping to compete with other cities like Corpus Christi, which has multi-field complexes which attract huge youth tournaments with as many as 120 teams.