The Tooele City Council has cleared the bases for the proposed sale of Dow James Baseball Field to the Tooele County School District for $1.07 million.
The City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved Resolution 2019-06 after a public hearing on the proposed sale. No citizens spoke during the hearing.
While presenting the resolution to the council before the public hearing and vote, Mayor Debbie Winn said that for many years the field has been primarily used by the Tooele High School boys baseball team. The city has not charged the school district for use of the field, but has paid for maintaining it, she said
“Because the high school is the primary user and it is not open to the public, but we are using public funds, we believe it is in the best interest of the city to declare this property surplus,” Winn said.
“We have held discussions [about the sale] with the school district. … and came to the conclusion this is going to be good for the community,” she said. “Proceeds will be used by the city’s parks and recreation department for parks that can be used by all of the citizens. … So we believe this is a great opportunity, not only for the baseball team, but for our residents.”
The baseball field is located at 400 N. 435 West inside the City’s Dow James Recreation Complex and next to the Dow James Building. The size of the property to be sold is 4.42 acres.
During an interview Monday, the mayor said the asking price was mutually agreed upon between the City and school district after a series of meetings over the past three months.
She said the reason the City is interested in selling Dow James to the school district is because the district wants a baseball field for Tooele High and the school’s boy’s baseball team is the only user of the field.
The cost to maintain the field is approximately $15,000 to $20,000 per year, Winn said. Part of that amount includes around $5,000 for extra maintenance during the spring when the team is intensely using the field for practices and games.
Although no citizens spoke for or against the proposed sale during the public hearing, the mayor read an email letter to the council from a resident who wants the sale contract to stipulate that the baseball field’s name be preserved by the school district.
The letter asks for assurance that the school district not be allowed to change the name — indefinitely. It explains that the baseball field was named after Lauren E. Dow and Danny James who were killed on Aug. 26, 1975, while fighting a wildfire near Stockton.
Dow was a deputy sheriff with the Tooele County Sheriff’s office and the only law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in the county, the letter states. James was employed as an animal control officer for Tooele City and was a reserve deputy sheriff for the county.
“At the time of this tragic event, it was said all throughout the communities that these two individuals would not be forgotten for the sacrifice they had given. With this request, the families of these two heroes know they will never be forgotten,” the letter concludes.
Winn said the letter was signed by Lauren Dow’s nephew, Dan Dow. She also said Dan Dow is a volunteer fireman with the Tooele City Fire Department.
“So I wanted to present this to you just so the community could know just how important that name is, what it is, and that we never forget and we honor these people,” Winn said.
The mayor and council did not discuss during the hearing that the Dow family’s request would be included in the sales contract, but noted that the entrance to the ball field has a marker and an archway that says “Dow James Baseball Field.”
Both Council Chairman Steve Pruden and Winn noted that the archway is on city property and will remain there regardless of what the school district does. Winn also said the marker is in disrepair and she has spoken with the Dow family about obtaining a grant or holding a fundraiser to do a permanent memorial at the field.
The Tooele County School Board is anticipated to review the City’s resolution and proposed sale during its business meeting on Jan. 22. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the school district’s office, 92 Lodestone Way, Tooele.
Marie Denson, communications director for the school district, confirmed Monday that the City and district were negotiating for the sale of Dow James.
“This information will be presented to the board of education at their meeting on Jan. 22,” Denson said at press time today. “And that’s when we’ll take the name preservation into consideration.”
Last year, the city spent $179,000 to install a new irrigation system and concessions building/restroom at the field, with the school district agreeing to pay for half of the project.
But the approved resolution terminates the school district’s commitment to pay $133,210 toward the new irrigation system and concession/restroom building.
The Dow James Baseball Field was designed by the late Coach Angelo Cerroni of Tooele more than 35 years ago, and was used for years by American Legion Baseball. It was formerly known as the American Legion baseball field and the Tooele Old Timers baseball field, according to the resolution.