Field dedicated to legendary coach
By ANDREA FURLONG
|The recently renovated Williamsburg High School softball field lies empty in the early morning hours prior to its dedication. The field was dedicated Wednesday, June 16, in memory of late softball coach Jim Turner.|
After nearly two years of fundraising and mostly volunteer labor, the newly renovated Williamsburg High School softball field was dedicated in memory of the late Jim Turner Wednesday, June 16.
Turner brought girls basketball and softball to Williamsburg High School when he moved from Conrad in 1973.
He coached girls basketball for nine years (1973 – 1982), and softball for 18 years (1974 – 1992). In the 19 seasons he coached softball, he led the Raider girls to a total of 344 wins. He also worked at WHS as a junior high social studies teacher from 1973 until his retirement in 1992. He died in 2008.
The dedication was attended by Turner’s wife, Nancy; their sons, Andy and Chris; and other family and friends.
Current Raider girls softball coach and WHS athletic director Curt Ritchie said Turner made a lasting impression on many people, including himself, when Ritchie started coaching softball in 1992.
“I could feel the love, desire and passion he had for this softball program that he started. He truly believed in Raider softball and the girls that had been part of it. He was set in his ways, some may say stubborn, but he truly cared about the program and the girls that were on his team,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie recalled how Turner followed the team even after his retirement and how proud he was when they advanced to the state tournament in 1995.
“He would occasionally stop by and give us a little talk and history lesson during that tournament run. His messages meant so much to me, that group, and their parents. I am thankful that we could help give him so much joy by watching his Raiders in Fort Dodge,” Ritchie said.
Gary Boland, Williamsburg Booster Club president, said booster members and softball fans knew long before they started work on the field who they wanted to recognize at the dedication ceremony.
“It didn’t matter whether I was at a Booster Club meeting or the committee that helped design the field or talking to people in the community, Jim Turner’s name kept being brought up. He did so much for girls’ athletics in our community. He was an advocate for the program and that was a common theme from the beginning,” he said.
Over the last two years, over $100,000 has been spent improving the field and bringing it to regulation standards.
Work on the field started last spring with the construction of a building on the northwest side of the field that includes a pressbox and concession stand. It also has an announcer’s booth, athletes’ locker room and restrooms. The new structure marked the first time spectators had access to running water and indoor toilets, rather than portable restroom facilities.
This spring, a number of volunteers helped improve the playing field. This included two new light poles, banners for the dugouts, new fencing, a warning track, hitting stations in the pitching warm-up area, new sod in the outfield, proportioning of the outfield from each base and expansion of the outfield to meet regulation standards.
While the school paid for some of the project — fencing, warning track and some light poles — those involved with the renovations said the majority of the renovations were funded through donations and volunteer labor.
“Many people spent countless hours on this project. If it weren’t for volunteers, it wouldn’t have happened,” Boland said.
Coach Ritchie estimated the improvements will last for at least the next 20 years. He noted now that the field is regulation size, Williamsburg will be able to host district softball tournaments.
“With our fence being regulation, we see no reason why this shouldn’t happen,” he said.
As part of the renovations, a sign with Jim Turner’s name was installed on the front of the concession stand, lest anyone forget the person who paved the way for WHS to have a successful softball team.
“That sign on the front of the press box couldn’t have said another name,” Ritchie said.
Entities and individuals involved in the renovation work included Alliant Energy, the Williamsburg Boosters, J and S Turf Team, D and N Fencing, Meade Electric, Williamsburg Lumber, TnT Landscaping, Jeff Wetjen, Rod Buch, Dave Huedepohl, John Niebaum, George Murray, Gary Stahl and others.
UPDATED June 22, 2010 12:15 PM