A Brief History of the Salem Bocce League
(aka Salem Bocce Club)
January 2007-August 2014
In late 2006, three slow-pitch softball enthusiasts had just been appointed by USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) to manage the USSSA program in Oregon. As the Oregon program had been on hard times for several years, they decided to build up a following by having a “kickball” league starting in February 2007. Ben Sims, then the lead director, having worked part time for a number of years at the State Fair decided that he would approach the fair staff on the possibility of using the fair’s open fields for kickball.
While presenting the idea of starting a kickball league at the State, Ben was asked, “What is the ‘USSSA’”, to which he answered, “The U.S’s largest multi-sports organization in the U.S.”. He was then asked the question: “Would USSSA Oregon be interested in Bocce and could I come to a meeting to discuss sports for the State Fair”. While Ben was in Astoria working to place USSSA tournaments there, Mark Terpening had attended the meeting with the State Fair management. Mark later took over for USSSA Oregon as the bocce program contact with the State Fair.
Shortly after this meeting, the State Fair built two permanent courts in the “Heart of the Garden” area, which the league could use year around, on the condition that the league needed to demonstrate “Bocce” to all interested fairgoers during the Fair as part of the agreement between Salem Bocce League and the State Fair.
Later in 2007, while visiting the 50+ Salem Senior Center, Ben Sims was asked by the Director what he was involved in now. While Ben had done some softball activities years earlier for the 50+ center, the question made sense. Ben suggested indoor bocce to the center, but they would need help paying for portable courts. The 50+ center purchased one court, including rugs and frames, which was set up on Saturdays for about three hours and then put back in storage. As the attendance started to drop at the 50+ center, the league started looking for another indoor location.
Fortunately for the Salem Bocce League, Ben Sims knew that the basement of the Administration Wing of the Salem First United Methodist Church (FUMC) was not being used from January to July of each year. So, in 2011, the Salem Bocce League rented the FUMC basement space for two courts. A second portable court was purchased by the league that included rug pads for both courts. Both courts are taken down each summer and placed in storage. The court from 50+ Center is currently still on loan to the league.
During 2012, the State Fair informed Salem Bocce League that they would be removing their courts from the “Wine Garden” area and, if we so desired, could build courts at our expense in the lawn area just south of the Pavilion, which the league accomplished by building two 10’ x 80’ courts. For two years, the Salem Bocce League held outdoor league seasons, tournaments and operated a free Bocce play zone with clinics for all fairgoers, with great success, but this later changed.
In 2014, following the Oregon Legislature’s development of the new ‘State Fair Council’, the new operators of the Oregon State Fairgrounds informed the Salem Bocce League that the two courts built and then leased by the League would need to be removed from the South Pavilion area to make way for new development before the 2014 fair started. At this time, the Salem Bocce League is working with other local government parks departments to plan, develop and build new, competition-level Bocce courts for outdoors play in the Salem Area.
History information provided by Ben Sims in August 2014.