During opening ceremonies for the Palisades Pony Baseball Association’s golden anniversary season in March, Mike Skinner was presented with a crystal ball. Hand-carved on the stand was the phrase: ‘If you build it, they will play.’ That was Skinner’s motto during his five-year quest to have a state-of-the-art ‘Field of Dreams’ constructed at Palisades Recreation Center, and his untiring devotion to the renovation project, completed last November, is the reason he will be honored by the Palisadian-Post as Citizen of the Year tonight at the Riviera Country Club. ‘We gave him the job. He took it, he lived it and he made it a reality,’ 14-year PPBA Commissioner Bob Benton said of Skinner’s dedication to the project. ‘None of what we see here now would have been possible without him.’ In addition to PPBA, the facility will be used for other sports, like AYSO soccer and flag football. Long after the project has been completed, Skinner is still hard at work raising money for the facility’s ongoing maintenance fund. In all, about $1,000,000 has now been raised. ‘This has been a community-wide effort,’ Skinner said. ‘A lot of people stepped up to the plate with generous donations to make this happen.’ A longtime youth coach and former chairman of the Park Advisory Board, Skinner was responsible for getting approval first from the Palisades Community Council, then from City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, the Department of Recreation and Parks and finally the California Coastal Commission. Once the Community Council overwhelmingly approved the upgrade project (and a skatepark proposal) in May 2000, Skinner’s first priority was to convince residents near the Rec Center that renovating the fields would not adversely affect them. He did so by being organized, providing a scale model and computer-generated images of what the fields would look like upon completion, attending every public meeting and including in his proposal landscaping plans, sound mitigation and reduced light reflection. ‘This is a win-win situation for everybody’the kids, the parents, the park itself, the community as a whole and the neighbors,’ Skinner said to concerned homeowners at a public meeting in May 2002. ‘The fields will look great, they will be safer, the noise level will be reduced and the glare from the lights will be far less than it is right now. Also, construction will be limited to the summertime. You won’t see tractors and trucks cluttering the parking lot for six months.’ Skinner’s next hurdle was finding a suitable contractor. Again, his thoroughness payed off. He and Brian Sullivan ultimately chose Athletic Turfs, Inc.’the same firm that built a baseball diamond on the cornfield in Iowa used for the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ and worked on several sports facilities in Southern California, including Anaheim Stadium and UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium. Finally, there was the issue of fundraising. Again, Skinner never wavered in his belief in the project, its importance to the community and his faith that the $850,000 needed to complete the work could be raised. He insisted a Donor Wall be constructed to recognize individuals, families, groups or foundations who made financial contributions. In addition to the crystal ball he was given on PPBA Opening Day, Skinner also received a wood bat engraved with ‘A world of thanks.’ Tonight’s dinner is another opportunity for friends and neighbors to thank Skinner for overseeing a project that will benefit the community for generations to come.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.