BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — After a tornado struck Champions Baseball Village in south Bellevue in 2017, it was in rough shape. With broken light poles, ruined fences — not a place that could host hundreds of youth ballplayers.
Tournaments were canceled and the facility sat vacant for several years until Sean Johnston and his team sought it out.
“What interested us in the property is diamonds in the rough,” said Johnston.
In fact, the diamonds did look rough and he quickly got to work fixing the dirt, fences, and even exposed electrical wires, to make them playable.
“There’s a lot of work to put into it but we knew the potential of the fields to be great once again,” said Johnston.
While minor improvements are still in the works, the facility, now branded Premier Sports Village, has been up and running since last year with a focus on youth softball.
Co-owner Sean Johnston says youth baseball often gets first dibs on local fields.
“Baseball has been the leading edge of preserving those fields in advance. And softball would go to Beatrice, would go to York, would go to Grand Island, or Columbus or Fremont,” said Johnston.
Others involved in youth softball agree, Brian Hansen has worked in it in the past and says baseball does get priority. It’s tough to find smaller fields that fit softball.
“I mean I think you can find a place to practice and stuff if you really need to but it might not be an ideal situation,” said Hansen. “There’s a definite need in this area for additional, for additional field space for that market.”
After starting playing ball here last year, the calendar is stacked for the formerly deserted facility in 2022 with weekends booked from next week to early July.
Johnston hopes the families coming from out of town help the entire area in and around Bellevue.
“I think it’s important for the hotel industry, for the restaurant industry. That we bring people from the Midwest region into this area to enjoy the city to bring what we have to offer in the Omaha metro area,” said Johnston.
While it’s still chilly and there is snow on the ground as of Tuesday, Johnston is optimistic that they will get some games in as early as this Sunday.
In 2017, World Baseball Village — which managed the property — was forced to cancel baseball tournaments due to the tornado. Parents of youth teams told 3 News Now that they never received refunds, despite spending hundreds to play in tournaments
The City of Bellevue took the property over and still owns it, leasing it to Premier Sports Village.