Mir­a­cle Field to open in April

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

There’s no rea­son a kid in a wheel­chair shouldn’t feel like Ja­son Hey­ward for a day.

The Mir­a­cle League and its re­mark­able hand­i­cap-ac­ces­si­ble base­ball field should open in April, roughly around the time New­ton County Recre­ation be­gins its base­ball sea­son, league spokes­woman Ta­mara Richard­son said Mon­day.

The field it­self is lo­cated in City Pond Park, not far from the park’s six lighted fields. Un­like the oth­ers, it will be cov­ered in ar­ti­fi­cial turf (not rub­ber­ized as orig­i­nally planned) and de­signed for the safety of “chil­dren of all abil­i­ties,” Richard­son said.

More than 2,500 chil­dren in the New­ton County school sys­tem have “men­tal or phys­i­cal chal­lenges” that would oth­er­wise pre­clude them from play­ing rec-league ball, she said.

“It’s a much higher num­ber than many peo- ple think,” she said. “And that’s just chil­dren in the New­ton County school sys­tem. That does not in­clude adults.”

The league will serve the phys­i­cally and men­tally chal­lenged from ages “four to 104,” she said. “We def­i­nitely want adults to feel com­fort­able and feel part of the league.”

Con­struc­tion on the field, an ad­join­ing all-ac­cess play­ground and a league build­ing be­gan in Septem­ber 2012. The $1.7 mil­lion project is funded through a loan from New­ton Fed­eral Bank based on $1.5 mil­lion through SPLOST. The re­main­ing money has been raised lo­cally through do­na­tions to The Friends of New­ton County Mir­a­cle League Inc., a non­profit group.

The field is almost done; the turf is down. Pavers have been bought and will be placed around the field for safe walk­ing. The play­ground is fin­ished ex­cept the rub­ber sur­face. The

plan in­cludes a sec­ond, 250-foot-long mul­tiuse field, avail­able to the pub­lic no mat­ter their phys­i­cal or men­tal abil­i­ties.

The idea is for hand­i­capped kids to be able to play be­side their un­hin­dered peers.

“All kids just want to be kids,” Richard­son said.

The Mir­a­cle League field will be used for strictly base­ball for the first year, with other sports likely to be tried on the ar­ti­fi­cial turf as time goes on, she said. Con­sid­er­a­tion is be­ing given to base­ball, foot­ball, bocce and soc­cer.

Most con­struc­tion on the fa­cil­i­ties has been done by in­mates from the Geor- gia Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions, which has saved hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars but re­sulted in in­evitable de­lays, Richard­son said. The in­mates are only avail­able to work Mon­days through half-day Thurs­days, and cou­pled with the rain the past few years the project has been de­layed by months.

The Mir­a­cle League will be sim­i­lar in most ways to the Rec League, in that play­ers will sign up, coaches will choose who goes to what team, and “they’ll be Pi­rates and Braves, just like New­ton Rec’s teams.”

There will be a small fee for play, but Richard­son said the idea is to keep it very small through team and cor­po­rate spon­sors. Fam­i­lies with chal­lenged chil­dren “have so many more ex­penses than you and I have; it’s a goal to keep the cost very min­i­mal.”

Team spon­sor­ships are $500; cor­po­rate spon­sor­ships are $1,000.

The field will in­clude a video score­board, “just like Turner Field,” she said.

For more in­for­ma­tion, or to view videos of the field and kids in ac­tion, visit mir­a­cle­league­ofnew­ton­county.com. New­ton County Com­mis­sioner Lanier Sims de­signed the web­site.

“It’ll put a knot in your throat look­ing at” the kids play­ing, Richard­son said. “It’s been a la­bor of love, long in the com­ing.”

All in­ter­est paid on New­ton Fed­eral’s loan is through pri­vate money, in­ci­den­tally. No tax­payer dol­lars were in­volved in the loan, she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.