published Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Future of softball fields stir Red Bank protest

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Many of those who turned out for a Monday night Red Bank public hearing about the proposed site for a new middle school wore softball uniforms, and they had one question that rang loud above the rest: Where will Red Bank girls play softball?

The proposed location for the new school occupies about 14 acres behind Red Bank High School, now used as four recreational softball fields.

According to Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey, the city originally wanted to acquire 26.8 acres of the park, but decided to carve out 12 acres used by the Dixie Youth Baseball association since 1962.

“Our Dixie Youth facility is in effect a sacred ground,” explained Mayor Monty Millard.

The comment ruffled many in attendance, including Sherry Iles, who serves on the board of the Red Bank Girls Softball Association, coaches a team and is a mother of girls who play softball with the league.

“I’m curious as to what deemed those fields sacred and not ours, because these girls are very important to me,” Iles asked the commission as widespread applause broke out.

Commissioner John Roberts suggested that a series of town hall meetings be held to address more formally where new softball parks could be set up in the city.

“We need to figure out what we’re going to have for our girls,” he said.

Though attendants were vocal about the need for softball fields in the city, no one opposed acquiring the land for the school.

Because the park was developed with federal dollars designated for recreation, the U.S. Department of the Interior had to approve a land swap with Red Bank in March.

Part of that land for the swap has been provided by a donation of 10 acres on Stringer’s Ridge to the city last year, Dorsey said. Dorsey said the remaining land parcel for the swap most easily would come out of the three acres where Red Bank Middle School currently stands.

One proposal Dorsey showed was to develop the space into a “pocket park,” surrounded by commercial buildings.

Several in the audience, including former Mayor Joe Glasscock, opposed that plan, saying the old middle school land should be used to build new softball facilities.

But Glasscock also charged the commission to move ahead to approve the park land for the middle school.

“I would beg and urge the commissioners to let common sense prevail and vote yes on this land swap and proceed as soon as possible with the new middle school,” he said.

The sale of the land to Hamilton County would total $546,000, in addition to the agreement that the county would clear the land where the middle school currently sits.

On May 3, the Red Bank City Commission will vote on the sale and swap of the land. Next, Erlanger North — which owns three of the acres marked out for the school — will have to agree to the sale of that property. The Hamilton County school board will then have to vote to approve the spending for the school’s construction — expected to cost about $30 million. Lastly, the Hamilton County Commission will have to approve the project.

If the swap and the sale are approved by all parties, Dorsey said ground could be broken as early as June, with completion in time for the 2013 school year.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrion at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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Stewwie said...

Mr. Glasscock and Mr. Casavant are two of the top dogs who have pushed for the new middle school to be built at this site. Note that they both lost elections this past time. Chip Baker nearly lost last time he was up for election too.

The proposed middle school site (behind the high school) is a bad location for it. Traffic will be even more terrible than it is now. More effort should have been spent in trying to acquire the old Bi-lo site on Dayton Blvd. Or they could have simply tried to re-build where the school is now. There was little effort in trying to do either.

The current middle school site has been dubbed "prime real estate" by the council. Because of such, I don't see them using that entire site just to build softball fields. The softball girls are really getting the shaft in this proposed plan. No promises have been made for where they can rebuild and play, but it will likely be put on the backburner after any "town hall meetings" about it.

April 26, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.
MountainFire said...

They should absolutely have to build new softball fields for the girls as part of this plan. BUT these fields need to be up to regulation for the High school team. Right now the high school cannot have true "home games" and the full support of their classmates because they do not have a field to play on at (or near) the high school. This is quite sad considering that in 2005 the softball team of Red Bank High School won state and still they don't have a home field. I see this as an issue that should be brought up with the summer ball teams issue. Currently the High school girls have to play "Home" games at Warner park which is obviously all the way across town from the high school.

April 26, 2011 at 8:56 p.m.
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