Good news for Boone! Commissioners to explore indoor baseball facility.

Posted on Feb 19, 2015 | 0 comments

Team effort

 Friends of Watauga Pioneer Baseball and Softball ‘got on base’ with county commissioners Tuesday evening in gaining its support of an indoor baseball practice facility at Watauga High School.

The board was unanimous in its decision to commit to sit down with the Watauga County Board of Education at its upcoming budget retreat to discuss the possibility of making the project come to fruition.

Proponents of the project said the ability to practice indoors would level the playing field with schools at lower altitudes that don’t have to contend with colder temperatures. Harsh High County winds and extreme temperatures – like the ones that have already robbed both respective programs of practice time this week – have annually plagued the programs as much of the preseason workouts commence during the height of winter, explained Jay Jackson, who made the presentation to the board on behalf of supporters of the project.

He wasn’t the only one who went up to bat for the facility and benefiting players.

Donning dark and light blue Pioneer colors, members of the baseball and softball programs filled the board room and spilled out into the adjoining lobby to demonstrate to commissioners the breadth of the facility’s impact on current and future generations of players.

Commissioners made no concrete commitment to funding the project, but showed a positive reception to the idea of an indoor facility and willingness to collaborate with the school board.

Already, various community partnerships, including continued support from the Will Dicus Foundation, has raised $70,000 for the project and are asking for an additional $125,000 to complete it.

Last week, the school board voted unanimously to endorse the project with the commitment to collaborate with the county on upcoming discussions of budget allocations for the project, said Jackson.

A similar facility, affectionately referred to as a dimly lit Quonset hut, was used at the old high school until its closing.

Plans for a similar facility were included in drawings of the new high school, but were later scrapped for the prioritization of other needs, said Jackson.

“It’s important to note how the old building was used and how this will do the same in the future,” said Jackson. “It will benefit those looking for individual work with coaches. It (the old facility) has benefited individuals not affiliated with the current teams, parks and recreation teams, All-Star teams and travel teams were able to use the Quonset hut.”

With proper netting and flooring, the high school’s golf team, for example, could also take advantage of the facility’s weather shielding attributes.

Although commissioners were in support of going forward with collaborating with the school system on the project, they did have concerns.

Citing that “sports is a great diversion” to area youth and helped players “learn team play and all kind of skills and thinking processes” through team sports, Commissioner Billy Kennedy noted that the county must “run a tight ship” in budgeting needs and was concerned the initial project estimate didn’t including plumbing, electrical and HVAC needs.

Referencing to a growing childhood obesity rate in the county, Kennedy said he is “committed to this project.”

Commissioner Perry Yates, who made the initial motion to further explore the indoor facility, said the facility would be more than just a place where children would go to learn about baseball, but would also serve as a safe and nurturing environment.

“As parents, we try to spend all our lives raising our kids, but at certain times, coaches and teachers spend more time forming our kids than we do,” said Yates.

“When you look at the board of education funding, our funding, there’s no reason we can’t bring this up, take care of it and build it and be on the way. We need it. We need it for the children and we need it for the community.”

With this, the dozens of supporters in the audience erupted in applause and yells.

Commissioner John Welch seconded his motion.

“It’s about time to upgrade our recreational infrastructure and find ways to support (students) not only in the classroom, but also extracurriculars,” said Welch. “This is something that is a no brainer for us. There is a way to do it.”

Commissioner Jimmy Hodges said he would like to see more specifics on the project and asked the county attorney direction on any type of bid process.

“We will be committed, but we need to get some details,” said Hodges.

Photo and News Article by Jesse Campbell.

Leave a Reply