Softball gets long-awaited opening day at Riverway

Youth softball teams throw out their first pitches two years after the city initially planned grand opening of softball complex at Riverway Sports Park

VISALIA – After two years of striking out against COVID, the softball complex at Riverway Sports Park finally put the ball in play on Friday. 

Visalia’s Parks and Recreation Department held the long-awaited grand opening of the softball complex and opening day for Visalia Youth Softball Association (VYSA) and Sequoia Softball, formerly the Kaweah Little League Girls Softball. VYSA has been providing girls’ softball in Visalia since 1976 and has played its games at Whitendale Park over the past 37 years. In 2019, VYSA had 300 youth participants. Sequoia Softball has played its games at Green Acres Middle School for the last three years. In 2019, Sequoia had 200 participants. The league will move up their season by one month to be concurrent with the VYSA for March through May. Members of Sequoia Softball took the field at 6:30 p.m for their first games of the season. 

The event was originally scheduled on Saturday, March 14, 2020, the day after Governor Gavin Newsom announced schools, businesses and government offices would be shutting down on Friday the 13th. The two-week shutdown turned into a two-year shutdown delaying the opening of the softball complex. The city also took the opportunity to induct three local, legendary athletes into its Pillars of Fame – Allison Giampietro Bliano (swimming), Ricardo Rasner (soccer) and Lauren Billys Shady (equestrian). Honoring Visalia’s sports tradition, the Pillars of Fame is a “Hall of Fame” monument that honors exceptional athletes who competed in the top levels of their sport. 

The event also marked the completion of the fifth and final phase of construction at Riverway Sports Park. This phase includes a four-field softball complex, central core parking lot, a new picnic arbor, timer-controller lights for the entire part and new athletic lights for five soccer fields. 

The Visalia City Council approved contracts with both softball leagues on March 2, 2020, weeks before the Governor issued his stay home order at the onslaught of the pandemic. Similar to Cal Ripken’s use of the baseball fields, both softball leagues will be responsible for all maintenance, damages, repairs and upkeep of the fields during their seasons. 

City activities and programs will have the highest priority for use of the field, followed by youth sports leagues that primarily serve Visalia youth, such as the two softball leagues, more county-wide focused leagues and, at the lowest priority, for-profit programs and events. Visalia-based leagues will be allocated at least one game slot per team per week, as well as one practice slot as space allows. 

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