• 61°

City leaders counting on new ball fields

The City of Bainbridge’s in-progress construction of eight new baseball and softball fields will help its most popular recreation program grow as well as boost the number of visitors to the area, city officials said Tuesday.

The eight new fields comprise the third phase of the Bill Reynolds Sports Park, which began development last year. Two multi-purpose ball fields and basketball courts are also planned.

Bainbridge Leisure Services Director Al Kelley, who made a presentation to the City Council Tuesday night, said he believed the fields were essential to accommodating the growth of the city-sponsored youth baseball and softball programs, which are also funded in part by user fees and a subsidy from Decatur County Commissioners.

“Anyone who doubts the necessity of these new fields should ride through there one day,” Kelley said. “[In addition to the sports park,] there are teams practicing in the Boat Basin, at Bainbridge Middle School and at Bainbridge College.”

Leisure Services Program Director Diane Atkinson said there will be 62 teams in the programs this year, down only two from last year, when a record for the most players in the programs was set. She said coordinating space and time for 62 teams to practice on the existing eight ball fields on Cox Avenue is difficult and cramped.

City Council members hope the new fields will also bring in new revenue for the city government.

Councilman Phil Long, who coaches baseball and has a son on a traveling baseball team, said he thinks the city’s plans to host weekend baseball and softball tournaments on its fields will bring in a stream of visitors from Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

Several area tournaments are already scheduled through July, Atkinson said, even though the new fields won’t be ready for play until Spring 2011.

This year’s baseball/softball season-opening ceremony will be held next Monday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m., with lineup of the teams starting at 4:45 p.m.