Lower Elwha Klallam facilities maintenance worker Mitch Boyd sets third base at the tribe’s new athletic facility, the Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park. The park is expected to be finished within the next two weeks. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Lower Elwha Klallam facilities maintenance worker Mitch Boyd sets third base at the tribe’s new athletic facility, the Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park. The park is expected to be finished within the next two weeks. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Lower Elwha Klallam finishing athletic park near Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s new $700,000 multi-use athletic facility and park is nearly finished, with crews working on the final touches before a grand opening later this month.

Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park, named for the late Billy “White Shoes” Charles, features the only synthetic baseball infield on the North Olympic Peninsula, a playground, a picnic area, and restrooms.

Charles, who died at the age of 69 in 1996, was the field caretaker and was an advocate for youth sports, said Warren Stevens, facilities and maintenance manager.

“I’m sure he’s smiling,” Stevens said. “It couldn’t have turned out any better.”

He expects the facility to be usable within the coming days and is planning a grand opening later in the month once all the punch list items are finished. No date for the grand opening has been set.

The baseball field, which also will double as a soccer field, has a 200-foot fence. With the synthetic infield, Stevens sees it as filling a need not only for the tribe but for residents of Port Angeles.

Stevens, who has coached for 26 years, said it can be difficult at times to find a good ballfield in town and that when it rains, many fields just become a muddy mess.

“When it gets wet, everybody is done,” he said. “If the high school can’t practice on their field, they can come down to this field.”

He said the field should provide for fast-pitch and softball games of all ages.

Although it’s on the tribe’s land, Stevens said, the field is for everyone in the surrounding community.

The field will have similar rules to fields in Port Angeles and will be open to anyone who wants to use it when there isn’t a scheduled practice or game.

“This is for the community to use,” he said. “This isn’t to keep it for anybody.”

Steven said the tribe and tribe’s co-sponsored events will take priority when it comes to scheduling. Next will be Port Angeles High School.

After that, it’s first-come, first-served.

Warren said the field will be free to use, though the tribe could charge for things such as a private tournament.

The field was paid for in part by a $250,000 state Recreation and Conservation Office grant. The tribe agreed to pay another $250,000, which would have covered the predicted costs.

“We put it out to bid and found out the costs were 30 percent higher than what the designer had actually thought,” Warren said.

Instead of scrapping the project, the community and other tribes came together.

A number of local businesses donated time or supplies; the Tulalip, Suquamish, Chehalis and Squaxin Island tribes donated funds; and Elwha tribal departments took over smaller projects — such as the playground — within the facility.

For scheduling, call Jason Wheeler at 360-452-8471, ext. 7440.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

Warren Stevens, facilities and maintenance director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, helps build bleachers at the tribe’s new athletic facility, the Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Warren Stevens, facilities and maintenance director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, helps build bleachers at the tribe’s new athletic facility, the Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park features the only synthetic infield on the North Olympic Peninsula. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s Billy Whiteshoes Memorial Park features the only synthetic infield on the North Olympic Peninsula. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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