By Chris Bavender
It started with an idea 14 months ago and ended Nov. 10 with a phone call: Zionsville had been selected as the new home for Little League International’s Central Region Headquarters.
“I was silent for a long time, and the CFO from Little League International, who made the call, at one point said, ‘Mike, are you there?’ I was a little emotional and stunned and had to pick my jaw up off the floor,” said Mike Rinebold, who led the campaigning effort. “I was surprised knowing the competition we were up against in (finalists) Plainfield and Matteson, Ill. I am just thankful and appreciative that at the end it was the community in Zionsville and our commitment to Little League baseball that carried the day.”
Rinebold said the idea wouldn’t have come to fruition without his “great partner,” his wife, JoJo, who put her background with the NCAA and her branding and consulting company to work.
“This fell in her wheelhouse, and I knew we had the experience and knowledge and resources in Zionsville to start it,” he said. “It became a regional effort as we went along.”
LLI said Zionsville proved to be a location that “offers adequate facilities, strong infrastructure, and a supporting community that appreciates and understands the ideals of Little League.”
“Throughout this entire process, Zionsville has truly embraced Little League to the fullest extent and made clear its intent to support Little League’s operations,” Hugh E. Tanner, LLI board of directors chairman, stated in a press release. “We are looking forward to the future that this community will offer for our Central Region Headquarters and for the hundreds of thousands of Little Leaguers that are supported by our staff throughout the region.”
The proposed site for the new Central Region headquarters is Whitestown Road and S 875 East, just south of the Zionsville Community High School baseball and softball complex. The proposed facility will include five new fields on about 30 acres and feature a 2,500-seat stadium.
Now that Zionsville has been selected, Rinebold said the real work begins.
“Before we were named we made two commitements to Little League: To have land donated for them to occupy, and that we would raise $1.5 million to make that happen, so we are launching the pledge campaign we started before we were named,” he said. “We are also preparing our sponsorship campaign and really let folks show their support and really get involved.”
The Central Region Headquarters, with guidance and assistance from 89 volunteer district administrators, coordinates operations for approximately 26,000 teams and 375,000 players participating in all levels of Little League baseball and softball.