Old Parker Meadows golf course site of proposed park.
After identifying a need in the community and a way to bring economic advancement to Macon County, the board of commissioners unanimously approved moving ahead with plans to purchase the old Parker Meadows golf course and transform it into a new state-of-the-art recreation complex.
The plan for a new recreation complex is not a new one, but has been in the backs of minds of county leaders for years. With inreased participaton in youth sports, the current ball fields are at maximum capacity and can barely accommodate the number of sports teams, explained Parks and Recreational Director Seth Adams.
According to the presentation given by Adams on Tuesday night, there are currently two youth fields and two adult fields in Franklin, one youth field in Highlands and one in Nantahala and one T-ball field at Cullasaja Park. “The individuals who are currently using the fields range from little ones playing T-Ball at fouryears- old to a couple of the Old Bones team members who are 84 years and older,” said Adams. “We have six leagues, little league baseball, little league softball, church league softball, men's industrial league softball, women's league softball and co-ed softball and those six leagues have about 92 teams in all. I have to shuffle around practice times and game schedules to accommodate those 92 teams on the fields we have, and then whatever slots are left open, we give them to the local travel team players in the area.”
Adams explained that it is a feat just to schedule the practices and to make sure everyone has time to get in and use the fields.
Macon County resident Jamie Stiles spoke to commissioners saying that he recognized the need for more space early on and took it upon himself to build a field. “Because it is so hard to get in extra practice time and reschedule rain games, I built my own field off the highway in Otto,” said Stiles. “Just this year I have had four little league teams, four All-star teams and travel teams use it because they needed the space.”
In addition to the 92 teams that are out of Macon County, a recreation complex could provide an opportunity for economic development by bringing in tournaments and travel ball games. Adams noted that the expansion would allow better game schedules, improve the practice facility, allow room for league growth, and bring an economic incentive by making Macon County a tournament destination.
According to an economic impact study done by Macon County Economic Director Tommy Jenkins, potentially $6 million a year would just go into the local economy. “While recreation facilities are built foremost to serve the local population, such facilities can have a positive impact on an area's economic development as an athletic tournament destination,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins informed commissioners that a 24-team tournament averaging 25 players per team would bring 600 people into Macon County. On average for lodging, meals, fuels and other necessities, each person would spend, on the conservative side, $125. For a two day tournament, that would generate $150,000 and with a rollover multiplier (the number of times one dollar would be returned to the community) of 1.73, a 24 team tournament would mean $259,500 for the local economy. That quarter of a million dollars in one weekend, does not include the revenue that would be generated for the rec park in tournament entry fees and concession sales. A 48-team tournament would have an economic impact of more than a half a million dollars, all in one weekend for businesses in Macon County. According to Jenkins' economic impact study, with one adult and one youth tournament a year, there would be a minimum of $4.7 million and a max of $9.3 million generated for local businesses in one year.
During the public comment period, parents and coaches spoke to commissioners and encouraged them to invest in the youth of Macon County.
Todd Ensley spoke as a parent with a daughter involved in sports. “Softball is a lifetime sport,” he said. “There are leagues for every age group. As a parent, I spend anywhere from $450 to $500 a weekend to go to the travel tournaments in Canton or in Tennessee. Please help out youth while you have the opportunity to do so.”
Commissioners received a proposal to purchase the old Parker Meadows site, which was appraised at $750,000, for a total of $550,000. According to Commissioner Bobby Kuppers, there is a great chance that the county would be able to use money in the Parks and Recreation trust fund, which would allow the county to be reimbursed for at least half of the purchase price, leaving the county's cost for the property at $275,000 for the 48-acre property. Commissioners voted to approve submitting a bid to purchase the property and to pay for it out of the fund balance because it is considered a capital asset. The new recreation complex would be purchased with no tax increase for Macon County residents.
Although still in the early stages of planning, Adams presented commissioners with a preliminary layout of what the proposed recreation field would entail, including four little league baseball fields and four competition softball fields. Adams' layout includes future additions to the recreation complex such as a proposed greenway and cross-fit training sections, a splash pad and playgrounds for children, ample parking and picnic areas for the community.
According to Adams, he has already been in contact with representatives from organizations such as the Independent Softball Association, the United States Specialty Sports Association and others who are ready to sign up and schedule tournaments as soon as the facility is ready.
Because the proposed site is already developed, commissioners anticipate that without running into any problems, the new recreation complex will be ready for use in the Spring of 2014.