If you build it, they will come.

Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jul 7, 2011

by Van Williams

Never mind a cornfield in Iowa, a group of people in Fairbanks turned a former cow pasture into their own fields of dreams.

For the first time in 30 years the Arco and Marlin Fields underwent a major facelift and emerged this summer looking like a million bucks.

It’s a far cry to what the baseball fields used to look like.

“We had no scoreboards or batting cages worth anything. The fields were horrible and the grass was patchy,” said Dr. Mark Wade, a Fairbanks American Legion Post 11/30/57 coach who was instrumental in the improvement project.

Together, an army of tireless volunteers, coaches, parents, players and friends joined forces with foreman Dave Miller to give the property an extreme makeover – everything from importing 20,000 pounds of soil, building dugouts and a press box, constructing batting cages and erecting 30-foot poles for an American flag.

There had never been a flag to salute during the national anthem until now.

“It is great to witness,” Wade said.

Donations from the community helped provide luxury items such as a wireless scoreboard and loud speakers for announcements, introductions and lineup changes.

“It really makes a complete difference in the games because the announcer says every person that comes up, what number and position he plays, and they play music in between innings,” Miller said. “It adds a little flair to the games.”

The 60-year-old Miller, a master carpenter, has worked in construction for some 35 years and was the foreman of choice by Wade, a key figure that galvanized the movement to upgrade the Fairbanks fields.

“He’s a very powerful force for good in this town,” Miller said. “A very, very determined man and he threw a lot of his own personal funds at making it happen.”

They started the reconstruction project by breaking down everything and starting from scratch. That included chopping down dozens of overgrown trees, picking up garbage and hauling away old pipe, carpet and a 30-year-old scoreboard that was rusted and broken.

It was cleared to make way for a state-of-the-art complex.

“Both fields have the best dugouts in Alaska for teenage baseball,” Wade said.

There is more on the horizon, too.

“The Fairbanks Borough has now gotten onboard, passing a measure to give us $30,000 for more work on the fields,” Wade said. “We are planning to pave the large parking lot that is shared by both fields this fall, and regulation of traffic is going to be initiated with new gates and fences.”

Miller, who grew up in an American Legion household in his hometown of Houston, Texas, was proud of the work, sacrifices and effort made by the Fairbanks community in building these fields of dreams. He loves working on local projects like baseball fields, especially because it helps kids stay active.

Projects like this show the heart of the Golden Heart City.

“We really do help each other every way we can,” Miller said. “For me the big deal was the blue collar guys, the guy who owns a dump truck and he makes a living every day by running loads of gravel. Well, he would come donate $200, $300, $400 worth of gravel. He couldn’t do everything but he did what he could.”

For Miller, the fields took on a special significance. There is a baseball field in Houston named after his grandfather, who died during World War II. Now his fingerprints are on the Arco and Marlin Fields in Fairbanks.

“I’m reconnecting with American Legion and helping them build a project for the youth of the community,” Miller said. “That feels really good.”