Delays renovating the ball fields at the Fort Payne Sports Complex are resulting in complications heading into the busy warmer months, but Parks and Recreation is working to accommodate all of the young athletes ready to play.
Parks and Recreation Director Brant Middlebrooks told the Fort Payne City Council that he still hopes to have three fields at the complex completed at the end of March.
“If not, we are preparing to play games and have practice on the fields at the Wills Valley Recreation Center,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s going to be $16,500 for eight dugouts. With the numbers we’ve got, we ended up with almost 300 kids. We’ll be able to play a lot of our games here instead of sending them out into the county. It’ll be great for our travel teams to use, first come first-served. Free play soccer can also be accommodated during the off-season in the middle of the fields because of all of the grass."
All T-ball practices and games will be in Fort Payne. All softball ages will practice in Fort Payne and 8U games will be in Fort Payne, while 10U and 12U will play all away games in the county. For baseball, all ages will practice in Fort Payne and 8U will play games locally, but 10U and 12U will play all away games in the county.
Mayor Brian Baine said the late start on the Complex project and heavy rains this winter have put the work well behind schedule, but they should have enough playing fields for everyone.
“They are taking the fields over and making legit fields out of those, putting in dugouts so we can utilize that during this temporary year, then once the Complex is done, those fields can be used as practice fields in the future,” he said. “Brant’s done a good job and has a system worked out. It’s not ideal, but it’s a solution for this year. Hopefully next year will be much better.”
Another cause for the delay was getting access to the turf material from the manufacturer, which is subject to the same supply chain delays as everything else. Once completed, however, it will be much easier to get tournaments because turf fields can more quickly drain and be ready for use than regular grassy fields. At present, coaches have no alternative but to cancel practices and games due to the poor drainage.
The City Council approved a budget adjustment for the new fields at the Rec Center on Godfrey Avenue. Meanwhile, work continues at The Sports Complex, a 27-acre facility featuring three championship softball fields, three youth baseball fields and three championship soccer fields featuring updated lighting, synthetic turf, new bathrooms and more.
A year ago, the city opted to hire Warner Athletic Construction of Smyrna, Tenn., to renovate the existing facility on 45th Street North instead of proceeding with a planned new sports Complex.
For more information, call the Rec Center at (256) 844-6571.
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