0

Miracle Field to break ground in August

@Photo CUTLINE:Special Photo: Celebrating the groundbreaking announcement are, left to right,  Newton County Engineer Tom  Garret; Matt Taylor with Newton County Recreation Commission;Jerry Summerville with Georgia Department of Corrections; Tamara Richardson, Miracle League consultant; Debbie Bell, Newton Countylandscape architect; John Middleton, county manager; Preston Mixon, Georgia Department of Corrections; Tommy Hailey, director, Newton County Recreation; Bob Plemons, assistant director, Department of Corrections; Ronnie Kinnas, Department of Corrections; and Shane Millwood, Steelco Buildings and co-chair of the Miracle League Building Committee.

@Photo CUTLINE:Special Photo: Celebrating the groundbreaking announcement are, left to right, Newton County Engineer Tom Garret; Matt Taylor with Newton County Recreation Commission;Jerry Summerville with Georgia Department of Corrections; Tamara Richardson, Miracle League consultant; Debbie Bell, Newton Countylandscape architect; John Middleton, county manager; Preston Mixon, Georgia Department of Corrections; Tommy Hailey, director, Newton County Recreation; Bob Plemons, assistant director, Department of Corrections; Ronnie Kinnas, Department of Corrections; and Shane Millwood, Steelco Buildings and co-chair of the Miracle League Building Committee.

COVINGTON - After more than three years of hard work and fundraising, it's finally time to break ground on the Miracle League Field at City Pond Park.

A groundbreaking will take place at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 21, Miracle League of Newton County Consultant Tamara Richardson announced. Construction will begin in September and, if all goes according to plan, the field could be in use by fall 2013.

"It's been a long time coming," Richardson said, noting that when the project was proposed in 2009, proponents knew fundraising would be a challenge. "But if we hadn't started in 2009 and had waited until now, it would be three more years before we had a field for these kids."

Despite fundraising challenges, Richardson said the community support has been overwhelming.

"The support and money and awareness that we've built in these three years, the way people have pushed this project, has kept the momentum going. People are excited about this project and they have been for three years," she said.

The approximately $2.5 million price tag on the project was "daunting" Richardson said, but a major hurdle was jumped when Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey decided to ask county commissioners to include the project on the SPLOST 2011 ballot. The board agreed and voters approved SPLOST. The Miracle League project will receive $1.5 million in SPLOST revenues. It was also a big break when the city of Covington agreed to loan the money for construction so that the project could begin sooner, rather than waiting for funds to trickle in over the six-year life of the SPLOST. Following the city's decision, representatives with Newton Federal Bank stepped up and offered to loan the money, and the agreement with the city was never finalized.

The Miracle League board was also worried whether a three-year-old commitment from the Georgia Department of Corrections to use inmate labor to build the field would still be honored. Those concerns were allayed following a recent meeting with Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens.

"It's their first time doing a Miracle League Field and they are so excited," Richardson said. The use of inmate labor will save between $500,000 and $750,000 on construction costs, Richardson said.

More than $225,000 has been raised through private donations, and Miracle League of Newton has applied for a $100,000 grant from the National Park Service's Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used to purchase and lay rubberized turf on the field, as well as a $40,000 grant from CVS for playground equipment. The Atlanta Braves also have a grant program that could assist with costs once the field is opened and the Miracle League program in operation, Richardson said.

The existing football field at City Pond Park will be converted to an artificial turf baseball field for children with special needs. The project also includes the conversion of an existing baseball field for use by various age groups in the Recreation Commission's baseball program. Those 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.