Ripken Baseball monitors blaze near Tenn. facility
Its new $22.5M youth complex is about one mile from deadly fires
Staff at Baltimore-based Ripken Baseball are keeping an eye on the wildfires near Gatlinburg, Tenn., that killed three people and caused the evacuation of thousands of residents and businesses this week.
The organization operates a large youth baseball complex in Pigeon Forge, about a mile from where a fire was raging Tuesday in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
A Ripken Baseball spokesman said Tuesday the fires hadn’t affected the Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge.
The U.S. Forest Service has set up a command post on the property as part of the firefighting effort, said spokesman John Maroon.
David Bounds, the general manager of the complex in Pigeon Forge, said that while they could see flames, the fire was in a more developed area and he was confident the complex would be safe, particularly with the U.S. Forest Service’s help.
Three people have been killed in the wildfires, and Bounds said his staff was “heartbroken.”
“We feel very fortunate and blessed,” he said. “Our staff here, everyone’s safe and accounted for. Everyone’s homes are intact. It’s a little surreal to know that there are individuals who have lost loved ones and homes and businesses.”
Ripken Baseball built and opened the Pigeon Forge complex in 2015, not far from Dollywood, a theme park and resort. The $22.5 million complex features six synthetic fields with lights, built to host clinics and youth tournaments — similar to the Ripken youth baseball and softball complexes in Aberdeen and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“Our newest facility in Pigeon Forge features all of the big league amenities that teams have come to expect,” according to a description on RipkenBaseball.com.
The property is on Jake Thomas Boulevard, which intersects with U.S. 441, a major highway that leads between Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.