Noticing the lack of a permanent location for the Tamaqua Area Girls' Youth Softball Association, members, supporters and volunteers are coming together in a campaign to give the girls a diamond of their own.

Association members have finished the first of six phases of construction of the new Tamaqua Area Girls' Youth Softball Complex, located next to the Rush Elementary School in Hometown, Rush Township.

"Our campaign, titled 'Girls Need a Diamond,' started in 2011 when we (the association) realized it was time the girls interested in softball deserved a better facility that would be used strictly for girls' softball," said Chuck Joseph, association secretary and key volunteer project organizer.

"The overall design of the softball facility will involve an open concept, meaning there will be no obstructions when viewing the field of play.

"A search for land started the process. In the past, our girls have been using borrowed or even shared fields," added Joseph. "It was difficult to schedule practices and games. When league games began, there were no fields for teams to practice. The one field we did have could only be utilized three days a week due to Youth Baseball practices and other sports teams needing the field.

"The other field, owned by the Tamaqua Area School District, was mostly used for the girls' youth softball but was nothing more than a playable field with a backstop."

The association is reapplying for the Baseball Tomorrow grant to help with the construction costs of the facility. Realistically, they plan on having the field ready for play this coming season with the final additions to the project to come in 2014.

"This will ensure us more time to insure completing this project efficiently," he added

"After exhausting land ideas in 2001, the association decided to approach the Tamaqua Area School District school board about an old ball field located adjacent to the Rush Elementary School. Association members pointed out that the field wasn't being used and had to be considered unplayable for softball.

"The school board realized our situation and supported this idea," said Joseph. "It was also pointed out that it could be a win-win situation, since the association would be able to volunteer their time and work and fund the project."

Phase one of the project involved the excavation and construction of the field. This phase was done and donated by Wayne Postupack, owner and president of Northeastern Hydroseeding Company Inc.

Phase two, to be completed by John Spengle of D.P. Fence Company, involves the installation of the backstop and baseline fencing. This work will be part of the grant fund.

Phase three of the project incorporates the purchase of a portable outfield fence that volunteers will erect. This is also part of the grant.

The fourth stage will involve the erection of a preconstructed 10-foot by 16-foot building to be used for a concession stand and equipment storage closet. The building will be custom built for the girls by Amish carpenters for George Donnon of Donnons Dairy Farm, and will be donated to the association.

Association members added that the field will be used each year for girls aged 5-16 for practices and games. Currently, about 85 girls will use the field.

"At the completion of the project, we feel these girls will have great pride in their new facility, which will help build their self-esteem and comradery," added Joseph.

Phase five will include the ordering of Shawnee open dugouts, which will also be installed by volunteers supervised by Postupack.

The final phase of the project will be the ordering and placement of a five-tier bleacher system. Grant funds will help pay for the dugouts and bleachers.

The association was officially formed two years ago with an election of officers. They are Mike Nichols, president; Robert Seltzer, vice president; and Joseph, secretary.

Since there is no middle school softball program, the association's program will be made up of youth ages 8 and under, 12 and under and 14 and under.

"In addition to providing a first-class softball facility for our girls, our goal is to make this facility a model for Schuylkill County's girls's softball."