Conservative Viewpoints

"Government is not the solution…it is the problem" -Ronald Reagan

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Who gets to play ball?

Posted by Stephen on February 26, 2007

During a recent work session, Waynesboro City Council entertained a discussion regarding a lighted baseball field complex. It is not a new discussion. A lighted ball field complex is part of the Capital Improvement Plan for Waynesboro and has been a topic during work sessions for some time.

Some argue that Waynesboro has been discussing lighted ball fields for as long as thirty years. The issue that has typically hamstrung the idea is funding. While many people have suggested it is an important element to add to the community, more times then not, the fields have not been seen as a priority. To some extent, those points have not changed.

It is clear, though, that the city is closer to constructing the fields then perhaps they have ever been. During the work session discussion, for example, the road block was not money, but usage.

In attendance during the work session were the leaders of youth baseball. Clearly representing the interest of these citizens was council woman Nancy Dowdy who proclaimed that building these ball fields is long overdue.

Mrs. Dowdy has been a champion for lighted baseball fields for some time and was energized by the conversation. Dowdy discussed her work with the youth baseball groups. While endorsing a youth baseball complex she described a proposal to move adult softball to Ridgeview Park. The idea proposes that two fields at Ridgeview be designated as lighted ball fields for adult softball, leaving Basic Park for a lighted youth baseball complex. The challenge at Ridgeview is to upgrade the fields themselves while also adding lights.

The plan discussed by Dowdy and others is slightly different then the original plan articulated in the CIP which did not include expanding Ridgeview’s capabilities.

At first glance it would seem to be a positive development for youth programs in the community and most would not anticipate a strong dissenting voice, aside from those that are concerned about funding the project.

However, councilman Tim Williams caused those in attendance a moment of pause.

Williams brought up concern over limitations proposed by a baseball only complex. In an interview with Conservative Viewpoints, Williams stated his desire for the complex to be more inclusive. “I’m very concerned about the city controlling who can use the fields and who can’t. The Quarterback Club and youth football need a place to practice and they are being excluded from this discussion and I think that’s wrong.”

The question has gone from whether to build the complex to who has a right to use it.

Williams is also concerned about more then a location for youth football. “I don’t think we should be telling parks and recreations how to do their job. I think they are fully qualified to manage these fields and this complex. I also have a problem with public funds going toward something where we are picking and choosing what kids use it and what kids don’t.”

Lana Williams, President of the Waynesboro Quarterback Club and wife of Mr. Williams, wants to be sure the focus stays on the kids and their safety.

“I need a place to go, a place that’s safe. Other sports participate in activities during the summer. We are most active in the fall. We lose minutes each day. I know parents are concerned about the darkness we face in the fall,” she said.

There is precedent for mixed use

Stuarts Draft is home to a mixed use sports complex that has been running efficiently for more then seven years.

Snyder Park is a sports complex that football, baseball, and softball leagues use nearly year around. Football leagues that use the park include flag football which includes six to eight football teams, also included are midget, junior, and senior league football teams. Additionally, some football teams are allowed to use soccer fields at the middle school in Draft to practice.

The community works together because they recognize that collaborative efforts are necessary when addressing the best interest of children.

What is different in Stuart’s Draft is that the complex is a private partnership within the community. The land for the complex was donated. The field is managed by the leagues which are led by parents and supportive citizens. The Quarterback Club, in conjunction with baseball and softball, donated funds to go toward lights on the field, they provide funds to repair the grass on the fields when necessary, and they yield to the baseball leagues if there are scheduling conflicts, which are rare.

All three leagues share costs and duties of maintenance, preparation of the fields, and utility costs. The money to pay for these needs derives from concessions, entry fees, contributions, and fundraisers. The complex is also built for tournaments where entry fees and concessions are added to the operating funds for the fields.

It is a collaborative effort that has been extremely successful. It includes the leagues, parents, the business community and others that contribute money, time and voluntary efforts to make it work. It is an example of people coming together for the common good, and it is said to be a blueprint for other communities to follow.

A possible future in Waynesboro

Leaders on Waynesboro City Council will need to be consensus builders among citizen groups to achieve success, but there appears to be no lack of desire for success on their part. In the past Dowdy has stated she believes that efforts like the ball field complex are critical for children.

During her recent campaign for re-election Dowdy said, “I think we deserve better services. I believe we need to do more for our children and our youth,” she added, “Our kids have nothing to do. When are we going to make kids a priority?”

Councilman Williams added, “I support the ball fields. I just want them to be inclusive.”

Lana Williams is confident that the end result will be positive. “Kids just want to play. I have every confidence that parks and rec.’s will find a place for me. The plans I have seen suggest that the ball field complex will provide a solution that makes everyone happy. They show room for everyone. I’m very happy with the plans I have been shown.”

According to Mrs. Williams, the plans show additional space outside the boundaries for the baseball fields that will provide more then enough space for the needs of flag football and practice space for other football divisions.

She sums the discussion up best when she says, “Anytime you can invest in kids it’s a win-win for the community. Baseball is very important, as is soccer and football. I do hope people consider the benefits of football for our community and kids.

Football is the only sport in the community where kids come for all across the community to be on the same team. Our football leagues build a sense of community and then later when they end up in the same school, for example, they already have forged friendships through a sense of teamwork.”

A multi use sports complex would provide solutions that allow kids from across Waynesboro to participate in sports of their choosing and ability in a safe, family oriented environment. It is a scenario where leagues in Waynesboro have an opportunity to work together and share responsibilities that will allow all children from baseball and football to be served in the best possible way. Failure to do so may result in the worse possible scenario, which is one that fails to keep kids at the center of the conversation, the plans, and the vision for their future in Waynesboro.

Stephen Winslow is the executive director of Conservative Viewpoints.


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