WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - As Jake Schaefer gets the ball fields ready on a quiet Sunday evening at the Hoing-Rice Memorial Softball Complex, he and others are also laying the groundwork to make the Waterloo park even better.
“To see that this project came from just an idea over a cold beer on a hot summer night,” Schaefer, the president of the Waterloo Softball Association, said.
That conversation happened in 2015 with Tim Petersen, a Black Hawk County sheriff’s deputy. The next month, Petersen was killed in an off-duty crash while he was riding his motorcycle.
He and Schaefer had talked about building a pavilion dedicated to all fallen peace officers at the softball fields, which are named in honor of Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice, two Waterloo police officers who were killed while responding to a call in 1981.
Those fields were a home away from home for Petersen and his wife, Katy.
“He played on at least two leagues every week, and then we also had a co-ed team, so we were out here at least three or four nights a week,” Katy said.
Now she, Schaefer and their family and friends have a plan to fix up the park, not only by building the Peace Officer Pavilion, but also by upgrading the lights, renovating the fields and repairing the overhead safety netting.
Schaefer said the complex is home to nearly 150 youth and adult softball and baseball teams, so it experiences inevitable wear and tear every year.
So far, they’ve raised about $80,000 through donations, memorial motorcycle rides and by selling bricks dedicated to all fallen law enforcement officers from Black Hawk County.
“It’s really humbling to see how many people support not only Tim, but our local law enforcement,” Petersen’s sister-in-law, Molly Brouwer, said.
They said that support is fitting for a man as dedicated to his community as Petersen was.
“He grew up here in Waterloo, so he made it a very large priority to do the best he could to protect his hometown,” Katy said.
“He always had your back, and I think that was the one thing that I loved about Tim the most, is I always knew that I could call on him when I needed something,” Petersen’s friend, Kasey Soldwisch, said.
Once the work is done, they hope the park is a place families can keep enjoying for years to come, including Petersen’s own.
“I would like to play softball here someday,” his nine-year-old son, Jax, said.
The total cost of the pavilion and other repairs is estimated at about $150,000.
Waterloo City Council is scheduled on Monday to discuss a possible grant opportunity that would cover the remaining costs.