by Morgan Smith
Leaders at the Morrison Family YMCA say construction on an additional four athletic fields could start as soon as the end of the year, expanding services and appeal at the growing south Charlotte campus.
The new fields, which are the last leg in a partnership between Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and the YMCA, will be part of the Ballantyne District Park, an agreement that originated in 2000 with the shared use of the program complex center. The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners approved spending the money for the project at a recent meeting, meaning the project can start moving forward. The total proposed cost of the project is near $1.4M, with the county and YMCA splitting the cost.
Two of the fields will be used for baseball and softball while the other two will be multi-use, with the ability to accommodate different types of sports.
Steve Bowers, community vice president, said the partnership between the YMCA and parks and recreation will allow for 50-50 usage of the fields.
“As part of our agreement, we will work together to coordinate anything that is an additional partnership” outside of the two entities, Bowers said, such as local intramural sports teams that would like use of the fields.
Bowers said the specifics of the partnership are laid out in the project agreement created in 2000.
“It spelled out days of the week and times that we will have use of the fields,” he said. “We don’t have what the actual layout will be, but in our agreement, it does specify what we should have.”
Originally, the project was to be finished by 2010, but Bowers said because of the sinking economy, the county and the YMCA agreed to extend the agreement for another three years and postpone the project until 2013.
The fields, which will be positioned behind the YMCA, will sit almost directly behind Hawk Ridge Elementary and Community House Middle schools.
“Eventually the park will come out on Blakeney Heath Road,” Bowers said, adding that a road will lead to the fields off of Bryant Farms Road. “We’re hoping we can get access off of Blakeney Heath… that’s how it’s designed.”
Bowers said, with the fields positioned between two of Ballantyne’s main schools, the YMCA expects to create more partnerships with the campuses for use of the fields.
“We do so much with the schools. I’m sure (they) would be using them. It’s not part of the agreement that they get to use them, but (the YMCA) has agreements separately with them,” Bowers said.
For the YMCA, Bowers added that the additional space will only add to their ever-growing programs. Although the fields won’t necessarily bring anything new to the facility, they will allow more room for the current programs to grow; and also possibly allow for adult intramural baseball and softball teams, he said.
“It will give us some expandability with our current sports program. The YMCA doesn’t offer baseball and softball programs (at this time), but it will mostly expand our summer offerings and after-school programs,” he said.
Parks and recreation is currently in the design phase for the project. Bowers said the county office has worked diligently until this point to find the best location for the projects in relation to both the YMCA and the community. Later this year, the design will be presented to the YMCA and the community for open-dialogue and suggestions. Bowers said he expects construction on the fields to break ground by the end of this year, with construction wrapping up October 2013 at the latest.