Miracle field gets new design, location

COVINGTON -- The planned Miracle League baseball field has a new location.

Representatives with The Miracle League of Newton County announced to county commissioners at their April 3 meeting that the design for the project has changed. Previously, the field was to be located on a shooting range to be vacated by the Covington Police Department, near the tennis courts in City Pond Park. Now, it will be moved to the existing football field and area north of that.

The existing football field would be converted to an artificial turf baseball field for children with special needs. The project also includes the conversion of an existing baseball field from 300 to 225 feet for use by various age groups in the Recreation Commission's baseball program. Previously, only kids in the Tee League could use the proposed additional fields, which at 125 feet, were too small for the older kids to play on. Also, the fields will be artificial turf, which will allow tournaments to be held to bring in revenues for the Recreation Commission and Miracle League, said Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey.

In addition to alleviating safety concerns regarding the intersection with Williams Road at the old site, the new location will result in a savings of between $500,000 and $750,000, said Hailey.

That's because there is already lighting in place for the football field and existing baseball field, so new lighting would not need to be purchased and installed. In addition, the Recreation Commission already maintains the area, unlike the previous site, so no additional personnel would need to be hired, with the exception of a part-time supervisor, whose salary could be funded with user fees, Hailey said. More parking at a total of about 150 spaces, will also be possible at the new site.

Hailey said the only draawback of the new plan is that the football field will have to be eliminated, but noted that there are adequate football fields at Wolverine Field and Turner Lake Park.

The football field was in need of repairs and $200,000 in SPLOST money was to go toward that, but now that money can be applied in other parks, he said.

The idea to relocate the project came during a brainstorming session with an engineer, said Miracle League consultant Tamara Richardson.

"Sometimes you look at something 100 times and the 101st time you look at it with a different set of eyes," she said.

The majority of the $2.5 million project will be funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues.

County commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement that will allow construction to begin sooner rather than wait for funds to trickle in over the six-year life of the SPLOST. Newton Federal bank is lending the non-profit Miracle League of Newton County $1.5 million and SPLOST funds as they become available will be used to make principal payments on the loan. The city of Covington initially agreed to lend the Miracle League the money, but that agreement was never finalized. It was because of the city's willingness to commit to the project that Newton Federal stepped up and got involved, Richardson said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections has reaffirmed a commitment to provide labor for the project, saving another $500,000 to $750,000 on construction costs, Richardson said.

The Department of Corrections and project engineers will need three to four months notice before construction begins, and nothing can be done prior to the Dixie Boys tournament in August, so that puts the beginning of construction at around September or October, Richardson said. Construction is expected to take eight to 12 months.