Lincoln Youth Complex Aims to Change the Game

Joe Duggan, Communications

October 25, 2022

The game plan was always solid. Someone just needed to put the ball in play.

Proposed 16 years ago as one part of a multifaceted community growth initiative in Lincoln, Nebraska, the plan would turn undeveloped land in the center of the city into a baseball and softball tournament complex.

More than grass, dirt, and chain-link fencing, the plan envisioned a premier facility to beautify a major downtown entryway, serve as a regional draw for youth tournaments, and provide a place where any kid could learn to play the game.

Although the ballfield complex didn’t get off the ground at the time, civic and business leaders agreed a few years ago to take another run at it. Olsson’s Roger Severin, Brad Korell, Jeff McPeak, and Rich Claussen were all part of those discussions.

This time, not even a global pandemic caused a departure from the game plan.

“The key people agreed we had to either get this done or move on,” Rich said. “We decided we were going to get it done, and we dedicated ourselves to seeing it through.”

What public and private supporters are seeing through is a $27 million complex featuring eight synthetic turf fields. Plans include baseball and softball stadiums for Nebraska Wesleyan University and a field dedicated to children with developmental disabilities. The remaining fields have been designed to be used interchangeably for youth softball or baseball.

Currently called the Lincoln Youth Complex, the facility will be located just north of downtown and within view of the home stadium, arena, and ballfields for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The location is also near approximately 1,200 hotel rooms, dozens of restaurants, and entertainment options for all ages.

All-weather turf for both infields and outfields will allow play to resume as soon as conditions are safe, even after a downpour. The resilient design will help set the complex apart as an ideal venue for multi-day tournaments.

With an eye toward the $19 billion youth sports industry, the Lincoln Youth Complex will generate an estimated economic impact of $9 million and attract up to 100,000 visitors in its first year, according to Jeff Maul, executive director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We can now say yes to organizations that have long wanted to host state, regional, and national tournaments right here in Lincoln,” Jeff said.

The list of project donors and sponsors includes city and county governments and some of the top corporate citizens in the state. The Kansas City Royals, who enjoy a strong fan following in Lincoln, contributed to the campaign, as have Darin Erstad and Alex Gordon, former Husker baseball players who had successful major league careers.

One of the main missions of the project is to make top-notch fields available to youth of all abilities, backgrounds, and ages. Providing a place where any kid can learn to play – and learn to love – bat-and-ball sports adds significantly to the appeal.

“The Lincoln Youth Complex will be the first youth sports program targeted to serve underserved youth on a really significant scale,” said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. “It will advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community.”

Helping to turn the Youth Complex from a good idea into something that does tangible good for the community falls right in Olsson’s wheelhouse.

“Olsson is proud to be part of the resilient community group that kept this project alive and is now making it a reality,” said Jeff McPeak, leader of the firm’s Lincoln office. “We look forward to the project creating opportunities for our community and our youth.”

The complex is expected to open for play in 2024.

Speaking at the news conference called to announce the project, Dan Muhleisen, a member of the business leadership group from 2006, said he’s excited for what’s to come.

“I can’t wait until the day I’m walking around out here on this same piece of property, and we’ve got baseball fields and we’ve got kids warming up getting ready to play the game and I hear the words, ‘Play ball!’”