Lacey Recreation Complex

In 1969, two police officers, Wendell Smith and Joe McGrew, were concerned about the lack of sports and recreation opportunities for unserved and underserved youth in the community, particularly boys who didn’t participate in the traditional football, basketball and track programs, and girls who had almost no sports opportunities.

The two formed the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) and started a softball league for girls and a successful Golden Gloves boxing program for boys.

Joe Crookham, who was City Attorney at the time, became a board member of PAL. He began to realize how difficult it was to operate the program at a variety of temporary borrowed facilities, and suggested that they should find a home for the program to make it sustainable.

At that time Green Street was a dirt road with an oil coating and many of the properties were in deteriorating condition. It formed a significant part of what had historically had been part of the “coal mining era, other side of the tracks” part of the community. Crookham knew Nita Barnes, and that she owned five acres along Green Street. He told her of the need for a youth facility and she agreed to give the property to P.A.L. to provide a home for the recreation program. She donated the property in a deed dated August 20, 1969.

Today, those five acres are home to two softball/baseball fields at the corner Green Street and Orchard Avenue. Thus began the recreational facilities which now cover more than 200 acres and provide activities for thousands of area youth and their families.

The original ball fields and other indoor recreational facilities were built with a broad base of community support. Dozens of local citizens helped clear the decaying house and property, as well as trees and other growth from the donated five acres.

Chuck Lamson, owner of the Lamson trailer park area, recognizing the value of the project toward helping to improve and develop the neighborhood, donated $10,000 in cash.

Gus Gilderbloom donated the building and his foreman, Terry Grace, donated his labor to erect the building. Many other volunteers helped pour the concrete floors and laid the concrete blocks for showers and locker rooms.

One special volunteer was a youth by the name of Clay Grace. Clay benefited from participation in the Golden Gloves program which Smith and McGrew provided. However, Clay also put hundreds of volunteer hours into helping build the facility. He also went on to become a champion Golden Gloves boxer.

T.O. Catherman and his son Jim Catherman brought equipment and expertise to the project to install drainage tile and plumbing. Oskaloosa Brick and Tile donated truckloads of clay tiling for the drainage system.

When the tiling of the ball fields was completed, there were excess field tiles. T.O. Catherman sold the excess tiling to customers in his farm field tiling business. The extra tile sales generated enough cash to cover the cost of all plumbing materials for the recreation facility, and even had $82 in left over to donate to PAL from the sale of the extra field tiles.

From these roots, over 40 years and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours later, the community has a 200-acre facility serving thousand’s of local youth and their families. Today the Lacey Recreation Complex is home to 20 youth soccer fields, 2 collegiate soccer fields, 5-plex softball/baseball complex, Kentfield Fields: a 2 field Babe Ruth complex, 8 youth football fields and a new collegiate sized stadium housing football, soccer and track.