Bob Hellman is well known in Waterloo for starting Hellman Associates Marketing and Ad Agency in 1967.
But besides marketing, Hellman has another passion: He's a baseball guy.
"My coworkers call my office 'Cooperstown West' because I have so much baseball memorabilia," said Hellman.
To share his love of the game with youth in Waterloo, Hellman started the nonprofit Build Our Ballpark in 2008.
It began as an idea from the former principal at the Dr. Walter Cunningham School of Excellence to build a field, known as Hellman Field, as a Partner in Education.
From there, Build Our Ballpark was started.
To date, it's raised about $2 million and completed 15 baseball and softball fields in Waterloo.
"It's been incredible to see the support we've been able to rally, the work we've been able to do, and of course the results: see the kids out here playing," said Hellman.
The newest fields are at Riverfront Sports Park.
The 8-field complex took 20 months to complete and cost about $1 million.
"He's transformed a lot of neighborhoods that needed a little influx of new development," said Mark Gallagher with Waterloo Leisure Services. "He's also sprung a whole new interest in baseball and softball in kids. We're gaining 80, 90, 100 kids a year."
Gallagher said there's also an economic boost: The fields bring in tournaments, which bring in people who spend money locally.
A softball tournament last September brought in teams from six states and Canada.
The plan is to make Waterloo a destination for tournaments.
"He's given us something to be proud of," said Gallagher.
Outside of tournaments, local leagues and teams use the fields almost every weeknight during the summer.
"Ask any of the coaches," Gallagher said. "It's hard to get a practice in because we always have something going on."
Hellman said seeing the kids in action is the biggest accomplishment of Build Our Ballpark.
"You'll find me frequently in the bleachers watching a few innings," he said.
Hellman said the best way people can say "thank you" is simply to enjoy a summer of baseball and softball in Waterloo.
Build our Ballpark is partnered with Black Hawk County Gaming Association, the Optimist Club, the Exchange Club, Friends of Youth Baseball/Softball, the City of Waterloo and private donors for fundraising efforts.
Bob Hellman, Jr. started a RAGBRAI team, which so far has raised $400,000 for Build Our Ballpark.
Build Our Ballpark is expanding to help other communities plan and finance fields. There's a potential for projects in Parkersburg, Dike and Iowa Falls.
The public is invited to help celebrate the newest fields in Waterloo. A grand opening for Riverfront Sports Park is Thursday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. on Field 2, located off Park Road in Waterloo.
For more information on Build Our Ballpark, click here.
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