A grand opening is in the plans for May 5, but the newly constructed horseshoe pitching courts in Los Lunas are already getting a lot of use.

“I’m excited we’ve already had people coming out,” Michael Jaramillo, director of parks and recreation for the village, said of the 12 courts that replaced a little-used baseball diamond.

Jaramillo said he’s already met some people slinging horseshoes on weekends and a couple of PNM workers who play on their lunch hour.

This Saturday, the courts will get a good breaking-in, as a tournament is planned for after the St. Patrick’s Day Balloon Rallye.

Lawrence Valenzuela, a general contractor and horseshoe-pitching enthusiast who did the bulk of the work building the courts, said the draw-your-partner doubles tournament will probably get underway about 1 p.m. The entry fee is $10 per player. Prize money will be awarded to the winners.

Valenzuela said the tournament is intended to promote the sport of horseshoe pitching in the county.

“There’s a lot of people who want to play, but we didn’t have a facility,” he said. “We wanted to have a tournament to let people know that we have a place for horseshoes that it’s out there for everybody, not just league players,” he said.

There is no organized horseshoe-pitching league in Valencia County, but that could change now that people have a place to play.

“We want to introduce players who are interested in horseshoes and possibly form a league,” said Valenzuela, who added that he’d like to hold more tournaments as fund-raisers to put money back into the facility.

The facility is not quite complete. Fencing hasn’t yet been put up around the courts. Jaramillo said a storage shed is needed. Additional shelters and trees would enhance the area by providing shade.

“In a year, it should be looking pretty good,” Jaramillo said.

A year ago, the project existed only in the minds of a group of horseshoe pitchers who held a meeting to see what could be done about getting courts built in the county.

The problem was how to make their dream a reality. “With today’s economic shortfalls that you’re always hearing about, that was the challenge,” Jaramillo said.

The village budgeted $3,500 for the project last year and another $4,500 this year enough to get the project started. “We had a minimal budget, yet we wanted to accomplish the best project we could. The project came down to being relatively affordable.”

That’s largely because of Valenzuela, who donated almost all the materials, including concrete, stakes and backboards, as well as his labor.

Jaramillo was able to use the village’s resources to provide fencing and a shelter, install irrigation and modify old street lights so the courts can be illuminated at night.

“I think it’s an excellent addition to Daniel Fernandez Park,” Jaramillo said. “The way it’s designed and laid out, it should last us a good 20 years.”

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