Courtesy Joey Markakis
Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Map of Cheyenne Sports Complex
3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas
In hard economic times, North Las Vegas has faced difficult budget cuts, leaving some city services by the wayside.
One of these services, the Cheyenne Sports Complex on 3500 East Cheyenne Avenue, left hundreds of softball players without a field to compete on.
Worn out wiring and dim lighting forced the city to turn the lights off at one of its oldest parks in the spring of 2009 — and the city, and the players, have lost out ever since.
Joey Markakis, the national director for slow-pitch softball in the American Fastpitch Association, said the park hosted two dozen tournaments a year, serving almost 100 out-of-state teams a year, as well as dozens of local teams.
“All that came to a grinding halt, it just stopped,” Markakis said. “No matter where you live, you played league in North Las Vegas. Once it stopped, we had no where else to go.”
The park’s wiring had gone bad and the field lights would flicker on and off. The closure, which Markakis at first thought was temporary, turned into two years without playing on the field.
“Frustration is not the word — the frustration has turned into anger,” Markakis said. “It’s not just me, it’s all players alike. You had this park that was one of the best facilities in the city. They ran a fun, great program.”
So the park sat idle. With no lighting, players started using fields in Las Vegas and Henderson, but it wasn’t the same. That was until now.
After two years of sitting in the dark, North Las Vegas plans to turn the lights on at the field. The City Council voted in September to approve an $850,000 bid to furnish and install sports lighting and other electrical upgrades.
The city’s recreation coordinator, Jeff Smith, said the news comes as a relief to him and the various softball associations that the park was home to.
“We get zero revenue when the lights are out,” said Smith, who has played at the field since he was a sixth-grader. “We’re losing about $75,000 (a year) in softball teams alone. It has been difficult because we use that revenue to offset kids programs like youth basketball.”
Smith said the field served about 8,000 players a month. A typical weekend tournament costs teams $800. Add in the light fees and the price can go up to $1,000. League fees run a team $375.
He said the park has been a part of the softball community for over two decades and the loss to the community outweighs the financial loss.
“(The park) is one of the oldest in the valley and had a loyal following. It upset a lot of people,” Smith said. “I get a lot of phone calls about when we’re going to open this place back up.”
But the city hopes to get softball games back on track.
Councilwoman Anita Wood said she hopes the city can finish the upgrades as fast as possible so North Las Vegas citizens can get back to playing.
Smith said the work is slated to begin in November and the park is tentatively scheduled to open next spring.
But Markakis said he is counting on the city to keep its word and reopen the field soon. Although he feared he’d have to move his operation out of state if he waited much longer, he says once the complex is lit up and running, it will do wonders for the city.
“People will be back if it’s open,” Markakis said. “There will be a waiting list.”