By Bryan Davis
Towns across the country are rife with abandoned and run-down sports facilities. Many, like West Point, have centralized their sporting events to a centralized location.
With peewee football and youth soccer about to get underway, the city finds itself overflowing with opportunities to serve the community through added sporting events. To make way for things like adult flag football, adult softball and 16 and 17 year-old baseball, the Parks department, with the help of a bull dozer, is breathing new life into the Sportsman, the fully-lit Fifth Street complex that once hosting high school and adult baseball games.
“This is a park the community would like to see back again,” said West Point Parks Director James Crowley. “It was once good, so we’ll make it good again.”
Being used in the last few years as mainly an adult baseball and softball field, the Sportsman will now be a leveled off multi-purpose field, used for anything and everything the Parks department can schedule.
“We have lights and flat land,” Crowley said. “You can think outside the box with lights and flat land. Why not flatten it out to multi-uses out of it?”
As football season approached, Crowley and his staff knew they needed extra space. With the economy still tight, acquiring new land and new lights was out of the question. The solution? Use what the town already has.
“You’ve got to learn to use what you’ve got,” Crowley said. “We can’t go out and get a football field right now, so we have to look back and see what we have, and see if we can use what we have.”
The Sportsplex, which is where most of the Dizzy Dean baseball softball and youth soccer take place, is only equipped to handle baseball up to 15 years old. The Sportsman will allow Crowley and the department to bring in larger tournaments, since the facility is ready for older teenage baseball players.
With Dizzy Dean months away, and tournament scattered throughout the year, Crowley and the city will see immediate benefits from leveling off the field.
“This is a multi-purpose field,” Crowley said. “We’re going to use it for football, older baseball, softball and even volleyball if we want to.”
Most pertinent, the field will be used for the upcoming peewee football season.
“We’ve redivided up the 11 and 12 year-old peewee teams, and now we have four of those,” Crowley said. “We were running out of time, and we didn’t want them out late.”
The younger kids will play at 5:45 and 6:45 at the Sportsplex, but the 11 and 12 year old teams will play games at the Sportsman.
On Wednesday, the grounds crew went to work on the field that has a history that goes back to Green Wave baseball games in the 1970s.
“It started out as a high school baseball field,” said Parks Ground Supervisor Clyde Hopkins. “As the high school grew, they built their own fields.”
Hopkins said that the field was basically abandoned after the high school constructed its own field, but it was reopened for events about four years ago.
“Now it’s moving in the direction of a multi-purpose field,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins and Crowley said the benefits are endless for adults, wanting to get involved with sports to stay physically active.
“Now you have a lot more adults becoming physically fit,” Hopkins said. “You start seeing more adults playing ball and doing things that don’t cost a lot of money. We’ll do whatever we have to do to serve the community.”