Shortly after his retirement from his electric and gas utility executive job of 33 years, our Founder and General Manager, Paul Liegeois, and his wife Mary Jo, visited with long-time friends and business associate, Dean Alford and his family in Atlanta, Georgia. Through discussion with Alford, now Chairman of the national Miracle League Association, he learned about the history and efforts of he and his Rotary Club in establishing the Miracle League program, and viewed the HBO video about the project. Intrigued by the concept, Liegeois brought the idea back to his Optimist Club in Green Bay, and in late 2005, decided to proceed to see if he couldn’t create the same wonderful program for the children in the Green Bay and surrounding areas.
With the Allouez Optimist Club already having a community park in the Village of Allouez in suburban Green Bay, with a softball diamond that it’s Club already supported, Allouez Optimists Park, that park was sought after as the place for the Miracle League to play. A presentation, including viewing of the Miracle League’s video, was given to the Village of Allouez Board. Unanimous approval was received in a unique agreement that allows the Green Bay Miracle League use of the ballfield, including reconstructing the field with a Miracle League specification special surface, if funds could be raised to do so, as long as the field would be accessible for other uses. The Optimist Club would cover the annual Association Fee.
Given the site approval and with the association fee sponsor secured, Liegeois, now with greatly needed support namely from fellow Optimist Club member, Steve Seidl, set up a non-profit fund, The Allouez Optimist Foundation – Miracle League Fund, under the management of The Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Inc., for the purposes of raising money for the field needed and the operation of the program. A Board of Directors was established. Sponsors were sought, a fundraising committee created, and very good publicity received from the local media about the unique plan. In the summer of 2006, the inaugural season, 65 athletes ultimately participated on 4 teams. Games were played on the existing dirt and grass softball diamond.
Sufficient private contributions were received so that a new rubberized surface field, a shelter with bathrooms, storage, and concession stand, paving of walkways, along with handicap accessible improvements to an existing playground at the park were constructed and ready for Opening Day and Dedication on June 16, 2007. The new field is named “Resch Miracle Field” at Allouez Optimist Park after Dick Resch, locally of Kreuger International, Inc., it’s major naming rights donor. Similar naming rights funding was received from the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation. This enabled the immediate construction of the shelter and handicap playground and was appropriately named the “Favre Family Miracle Recreation Area” in honor of Green Bay Packers Quarterback Brett Favre and his wife Deanna Favre. 120 athletes on 10 teams played in 2007, in the first season on the new field. The league had grown to almost 200 participants on 14 teams in 2010. As of 2016, there are now over 200 children on 16 teams in our program. In addition, one of our participating families enjoyed the experience so well that they started another Miracle League program in nearby Appleton, WI, approximately 45 miles away, having 100 athletes in their opening season in 2010. In 2014 Manitowoc constructed a field.
Over the course of our 11 seasons of existence thus far, three major expansions have been made to the handicap accessible playground in the Favre Family Miracle Recreation Area. The latest expansion was completed in May of 2013, by community volunteers. That expansion totaled $120,000 of new facilities. Of particular significance is that the the last $25,000 needed to complete the funding was contributed by the Green Bay Packers and the Brett Favre 4 Hope Foundation, receiving $12,500 from each.
Thanks to a separate anonymous donation the entire play area also has a rubber surface installed beneath it.
In 2016, we expanded the play area of the park by adding a board footbridge over the marshland between the north and the south property. This will open up access to land previously not used, but part of, the park too.
The following recaps our “Field of Dreams” adventure:
- November 2006 – The paving of our “Field of Dreams” is complete and ready to install the rubber surface, fencing and bleachers in the spring. The field will be ready for the 2007 season.
- December 2006 – Funds are secured so that plans additionally now include the construction of a shelter/bathroom/concession stand building to be ready for opening day 2007.
- January 2007 – The Village of Allouez Board approves the long range plans of adding a rubber, handicap accessible surface to the playground area, a paved pathway and paved parking lot, as well as a climbing structure. These items will be considered as funding permits.
- February 2007 – Bidding prep for the shelter construction.
- March 2007 – Fence installation began the week of March 26. Posts are in. Wire mesh won’t be hung until the surface is put on. The rubber surface is scheduled for delivery and installation in mid-May. Shelter bidding announced. Bids due April 2nd.
- April 2007 – Contracts for the shelter construction were awarded. Construction began April 18. Sewer and water extension for the shelter is complete. Dugouts are installed.
- May 2007 – As of May 3rd, the concrete block walls of the shelter are up, the conrete floors are in, and roofing trusses are ready to go on. The rubber surface product for the field is scheduled for delivery on May 5th. Walkways to be paved were marked out throughout the park.
- May 14, 2007 – The brown rubber for the basepaths has been glued down. Rain has delayed the start of gluing the green surface. The shelter is now enclosed and the roofing on.
- May 31, 2007 – The field surface is now completed. The fencing is finished. Bleachers are placed in place. The shelter is nearing completion as well. Sound is being installed, the scoreboard is going in, paving of walkways is underway, as well as landscaping in progress.
- June 16, 2007 – Dedication and Opening Day. Everything is completed on time for Opening Day.
- July 1, 2007 – Some landscaping remains around the field signs and the brick pavers, commemorative circle, behind the home plate bleachers needs to be completed too. Future plans call for more handicap accessible playground equipment, and a baseball-shaped climbing structure to complete the baseball theme for the park.
- Phase 1 – MIRACLE FIELD PROECT COMPLETED
- March 1, 2008 – Phase 2 Announced – Handicap accessible playground equipment additions are planned. It is expected that the first of additional playground modification will be installed by the June 7th, 2008, Opening Baseball Season date. As funds permit, additions and a safe, rubber surface is planned to be added to the playground at Optimist Park over 2 to 3 years, pending design and expansion approvals from the Village Board and neighbors in the vicinity.