Rockmart council looking at new field uses
Kids who play baseball and softball – even from early ages – can agree that they have a dream that one day they’ll get a solid lead on a pitch and knock a ball right out of the park in front of a hometown crowd.
Yet at the moment, it’s a dream some fulfill and others only get to work toward their homeruns on the City of Rockmart’s older fields – an area the city plans to change after a complaint from one local business owner and youth coach.
Mayor Steve Miller promised that they’d be looking into why the city hasn’t allowed local teams much access – other than on special occasions – to fields built with Special Purpose, Local Option Sales Tax funds at the Nathan Dean Sports Complex.
“I think some decisions have been made that I was unaware of and members around this table were unaware of” Miller said during the February city council session. “We’re going to try and fix it. We want the best for our children, and we wouldn’t have built it if we didn’t want it to be used.”
Clint Brock, a recent addition to Rockmart’s Little League board, asked during requested time to address the council why local youth haven’t been allowed the same amount of access to practice on the newer fields at the Nathan Dean Sports Complex, or play as other teams from out of the area have in past years since the facility opened up new fields.
He said during the meeting that he loved the new facilities and the fact that the city is bringing in visitors from outside of the county to use them, but that it seemed unfair for children locally to not get to use them as much.
“We’re talking about six year old who are practicing late,” he said. “There’s a real safety issue… It’s much safer to play on a field that has been prepped, groomed and raked.”
Brock added in follow-up conversations that based on his own time coaching for his own son, he had not once played on the new fields. Whereas teams from all across the state as recently as November were on the fields for tournament play, drawing hundreds of visitors into Rockmart who spend at restaurants and stores.
Brock, the owner of the Raceway on the corner of Highway 278 and Highway 113, asked the council to reconsider the position and give local youth greater access to the facilities, at least for the purposes of practicing. He cited among other items the safety of youth players, the growth of the programs over the past year and their need for a greater amount of space as teams compete for fields and spend long hours on school nights preparing for the season, and then for games.
“We have well over 500 kids playing between rockmart little league softball and little league baseball,” he said in a follow-up interview. “I want to keep the fields pristine too, but between Rockmart Little League and Softball, we need space to play too. I don’t see how 2 to 3 hours a day of Little League Sports can do that much damage.”
The Standard Journal sought comment from City Manager Jeff Ellis on the issue, but never received a return call when a message was left.
Brock’s hope is that the city will change course and let the kids play.
“Our tax dollars pay for the fields, whether it is through SPLOST or not,” Brock said in the follow-up. “It’s a wonderful complex and I just want our kids to be able to utilize those fields.”
He asked the council to work together on how to best use the facilities, and was promised a response.
Miller did add during the meeting that “I think the fields are available for our youth to use.”
The question has been over practice on the fields, Miller continued, and said that it was the direction of the city’s Recreation Department to not use the fields for practice but for play.
“I know that as the city has taken over girls softball, the decision was contemplated on how to use the complex now for practice,” he said.
Miller also praised the growth of local youth sports programs in the past years like baseball and softball.
“We’re committed to our youth, and the best use of our facilities,” he said. “The board will discuss what we need to do and to take appropriate action.”
Whether local youth are permitted to practice and play on newer fields built by the City of Rockmart was a question Clint Brock brought before the City Council last week.
Rockmart’s Clint Brock spoke out about the need for youth baseball and softball programs in the city to have access to newer fields for practice and play when tournaments aren’t in town.