KIMBALL, Tenn. -- A decadelong dream reached a major milestone Thursday when city leaders officially opened Kimball Park's Chester Blevins Sports Complex.
The city purchased about 89 acres of farmland across Interstate 24 in 2004, and officials said a lot of people had different ideas about what officials should do with the property.
"Some of our citizens approached us about getting some type of park started, so we organized a park board and started working," Mayor David Jackson said. "It's been a long road, and there's been a lot of help getting it done."
Kimball bought the land from Chester Blevins, who Jackson said was "instrumental" in getting the park idea off the ground.
Even though he died before the first games were played there, Blevins lived to see the park's ballfields named for him in 2010.
"Chester worked hard on this park with us," Jackson said. "I relied on him a lot at times to help deal with issues or problems that came up. He was awfully supportive, and he is truly missed."
Blevins' wife, Shirley, and his sister, Pat Keef, threw out the ceremonial first pitches to officially open the ballfields on Thursday night.
Alderman Johnny Sisk, who also is chairman of the park board, said city leaders are proud to see the sports complex finally being used after all the time and money that has been put into it.
"It's really starting to develop, and the plans are to finish up and have a beautiful park," he said.
The city has gotten two major grants over the years to help fund construction of the park and lighting of the fields.
Jackson said future plans include pouring concrete for each field's dugouts, covering all the dugouts and building several small pavilions between the fields.
"It's been a lot of work from a lot of people," he said. "We're steadily working to try to make the park better."
The first softball tournament at the complex actually was held last weekend, and Jackson said it generated about $3,000 in ticket sales and about $4,200 in concessions.
Kimball doesn't have a Little League baseball and softball program of its own, so the city agreed to a deal recently with nearby South Pittsburg to allow all of that town's teams to host games at Kimball Park.
Officials said that decision is benefiting both cities.
"That was a good move, because that way kids from both cities can come together and enjoy the park," Sisk said. "There's so much to do down here. Now, everybody can come together here and have a good time."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.