A dozen youth sports facilities from Champlin to Minneapolis scored big last week when they won grants of up to $275,000 for construction or improvements through Hennepin County's youth sports program.
The program, funded by the 0.15 percent sales tax enacted in 2006 to build Target Field, added a new wrinkle: smaller grants to equip various facilities with needed amenities, such as pitching machines, scoreboards or fencing.
Such grants "made it possible to fund a broader array of youth sports programs," Commissioner Gail Dorfman said.
In all, $2.15 million was awarded in the fourth round of grants since the Hennepin County Board began the program in 2009. Since then, the county has made grants totalling $8.9 million to 70 projects.
Excess revenues from the ballpark tax also are used to extend hours at Hennepin County libraries.
Commissioners made the final choices from a list prepared by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC), which the county pays $65,000 annually to administer the grant selection process.
The board unanimously approved the choices after including a last-minute entry by Board Chairman Mike Opat, who proposed $100,000 to help Brooklyn Park build a wheelchair-accessible softball field at Northwoods Park. The $600,000 project, which is still raising money, also has received city funding and a Twins/Pepsi grant.
The board had earmarked $250,000 for the smaller equipment grants, but wound up spending only $105,000 because several groups mistakenly applied for personal-use items, such as helmets, that aren't covered by the program, said Steve Olson, MASC's chief operating officer and youth sports program director.
Sixteen projects got equipment grants ranging from $1,146 to $10,000.
The Brooklyn Park wheelchair softball field will use $100,000 of the unspent equipment grant money, and the rest will be rolled over into next year's grants, Olson said.
Other notable winning projects this year include synthetic turf at Minneapolis Washburn High School's football field, which will be made available for park district and community activities, and a Minnehaha Park playground that can be used by kids with disabilities. Each project received grants of $220,000.
"I think it's another great success, and it's going to make the lives of our young people that much better and give them a better shot at growing up well," Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455