Progress continues for a planned special-needs youth baseball field at Curtis Walker Park. On Tuesday night the Conway City Council officially named the park’s baseball field Braves Field in honor of the Conway Braves, and to name the seating area "Ben’s Bleachers" in memory of Ben Patterson, "the original Conway Brave," according to David Grimes, the city councilman who has been one of the project’s champions.
The council also accepted $30,000 in Central Arkansas Planning and Development District grant funds for the project. The money was secured by Reps. Steve Magie (D-Conway) and David Meeks (R-Conway) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who each asked for $10,000.
The Conway Parks Department is currently renovating Curtis Walker Park, which mostly involves building a new concession stand/restroom/equipment storage building. The overall cost of renovating the park is expected to be about $300,000, according to Jack Bell, city chief of staff. This cost will be paid using Conway Parks and Recreation Department money, which is generated separately from the city’s general fund and other city funds, including the street fund, and can only be used for parks projects.
The special needs field, to be named Braves Field in honor of the Conway Braves special needs team, will be made of a modular synthetic material designed to accommodate wheelchairs. The field itself will also cost about $300,000 in privately raised money, Grimes said, and should require little maintenance and last "for decades." The donations are close to reaching this goal.
The council is expected to pick a construction supervisor at the next regular council meeting, with construction of the special-needs park starting soon after.
An adult baseball field at the park that has served as home field for the Conway Dodgers semipro baseball team and used for American Legion and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues and high school teams has been largely renovated by volunteers using the local Lowe’s Hardware store’s donations of labor and materials.
Also, a youth football field at the park, Peyton Hillis Field, has served as home for Conway Optimist Football and has been maintained by that organization. The city will probably use parks department money to build a new press box for the football field, according.
A planned second phase of the renovation is building a playground designed to accommodate special needs children. Grimes said that this playground is planned to include a swingset that a wheelchair-bound child can use. This phase will also probably include expanding the parking lot.
When the special needs field is finished, the Conway Parks Department will take over running the city’s special needs baseball league. Grimes said in a recent post to the Conway Braves facebook.com page that the league would be open to anyone, regardless of where they are from, and that while a nominal fee to cover the costs of things like hats and jerseys will be required "I can promise you that no one will be turned away for inability to pay," and that league organizers "will find a way to cover the cost for your child."
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)