Thanks to school and community partnerships, the Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team is hitting a home run with renovated facilities.
Heartland Bank president and CEO Scott McComb recently announced a partnership with Phil Griesinger and the launching of the new Heartland Bank Field -- Home of the Gahanna Lions -- in the spring.
Griesinger, parent of two Lincoln graduates and president of Columbus-based Graffiti Foods, had a vision for making a dream come true to rebuild the baseball diamond for the high school teams.
"Head coach Mike Shade has had a dream for years to rebuild the baseball field and didn't think that dream would ever come true," Griesinger said. "Everyone said it wouldn't get done. I said I would get it done. He (Shade) has made sure we got everything we needed to make it happen."
Athletics director Justin Sanford said athletics facility renovations have been in progress since 2007, including the football stadium and tennis courts.
"The baseball irrigation system started in 2007," he said. "Bill Tomko, a parent of a player who graduated, and Phil were involved with that."
When Sanford arrived in the district 10 years ago, he said, the facilities were behind.
"Any improvement that needed to be made to get us up to par was going to have to be done privately," he said.
Almost $2 million in facility improvements needed to be made, and about $1.5 million has been completed.
"The first phase was getting the field up to par," Sanford said. "The last piece is the press box. That"s where Phil and Heartland have been influential. It's remarkable for our community, parents and businesses that helped us make these improvements since 2007."
Sanford said the press box, bleachers and scoreboard amount to about $ 90,000 in facility improvements.
Griesinger said a five-year commitment is required for the loan to finance those amenities. He met with McComb and shared his vision for the baseball diamond and the need to finance the project.
Griesinger said McComb was true to his word about Heartland Bank wanting to be an active part of the community, as Heartland was able to put together a plan for the financing.
The project was financed by Heartland Bank and was carried out by business owners with children currently or formerly attending Lincoln.
Part of the agreement was the name of the field for the life of the loan.
The Heartland Bank Field is behind Blacklick Elementary School on Havens Corners Road. The building will include an announcer booth, two private press boxes (with new lights and a sign on top) and the coaches booth, with plenty of storage and seating.
Griesinger said he wanted to wait for his kids to graduate so it would be clear that this was not just in support of his own children but for all of the kids at the school and for the community as a whole.
Griesinger's son, Cole, played center field for the Lions and graduated in 2012.
"I'm doing this to make a difference in the community," he said.
He said he hopes others would follow his lead and step up to the plate to help the program.
A "Field of Fame," a miniature baseball field made of bricks, is available to the public for sponsorship.
Anyone may buy a brick for $50 to commemorate a former player. They may be purchased by going online to gahannalincolnathletics.com or by calling the athletics office.
"For all the kids who used to play, we'd like to have their names, class and positions on a brick," Griesinger said. "We'll position the bricks as to the position they played."
The Field of Fame will be in front of the press box.
"It's like a field of dreams," Griesinger said. "It's dynamic. Anyone can be part of it -- the fans, parents, anyone. I hope people will get involved."
Griesinger said baseball attracts high-income families who pay higher taxes.
"We did the press box so we can be sustainable," he said. "It will help bring in tournaments, and that brings income to hotels. We can't do that without a press box and a stadium. We want it to be a landmark for Gahanna. It's something special."
Sanford said the renovation should open the door to Gahanna playing host to postseason games, tournaments and other events
"The press box was the last missing piece," he said. "Now that this is taking shape, we can submit to the (OHSAA's) Central (District) Athletic Board that we have a top facility in central Ohio. We can attract those games. That has been the intent and goal, bringing more recognition to Gahanna Lincoln and the city. It's finally come to fruition."