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Covington YMCA Outdoor Center
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Taking a page from "Field of Dreams," the title itself appropriately describes what will soon be at Ga. Hwy. 142 North at Stone Road.

The Covington Family YMCA Outdoor Center, a new 28-acre complex currently in production, is expected to provide numerous opportunities for all ages, bringing greater economic development to the area.

Should all go as planned, the park will open no later than the fall of next year, at least with some initial area.

"This isn't like a normal YMCA expansion of our building where it really only benefits the members of the Y," said Covington YMCA executive director Michael Chism. "In essence we're building a community park; that's basically what it boils down to. There will be a lot of opportunities out there for people to have some leisure time in big, green fields."

Currently, there is nothing like this is Newton County. From that viewpoint, the park will be quite unique, and will be open to the public most of the time. But the good thing is you don't even have to own a Y membership to enjoy the spacious fields.

"It's a really big deal to us," said Chism. "We just feel good about the fact that it's not just for Y members. This has got a much deeper meaning to the community, and that's pretty good for us. We're not only doing something that helps the Y, but it also helps the community."

The complex will include two new soccer fields capable of supporting hundreds of athletes, more than doubling the Y's current capacity. In addition, it will include a multi-use trail over one mile long, a community playground called "Mary Beth's Place," tennis courts and two multi-use fields, including "Chase Cain Memorial Field."

The Y has been trying to get the park developed since 2005, when it was still searching for land. Approximately 18 months ago it received the Arnold Fund, which agreed to donate the land through a long-term lease. In March, the Y got the re-zoning finished to proceed with building, and since then it's been working on plans and structuring the capital campaigns.

The Y, which has a task force to help raise the money, began its capital campaign ($3 million) last month and has already raised $601,000. In fact, BB&T donated $350,000 to the facility. However, the Y has a remaining $2.4 million to raise before being able to build the entire complex.

"I think the ones on our board who are the most excited realize that Newton County is behind (us) on having something like this," said Covington YMCA membership director Louly Hay-Kapp. "Even if they don't have children (who) are going to be in our programs, it's something for everybody."

Initially, the Y started looking for soccer space. Currently and rather inconveniently, practices and games are held at three different locations, including two churches and Legion Field. Approximately 450 kids are enrolled in the youth soccer program, but this number should more than double once the new park opens.

After finding out what the Arnold Fund had available and realizing that the vast room was much more than a soccer complex, the wheels began to turn in motion.

"It was more of the need (that) pushed the idea," said Chism. "We had a soccer program not capable of growing based on its current space. We weren't looking for this kind of a property, but this is what the Arnold Fund had available."

Besides, soccer, other new activities will be introduced, including lacrosse, flag football, tennis and sports camps.

"We plan to have a summer camp, and there may be parts of the park closed during times like that," said Chism. "But generally speaking you should be able to do anything."

Although the Y will control access to the facility, on any given day one should be able to drive out there and enjoy a picnic, walk the trails or even throw a Frisbee.

"We need this," said Hay-Kapp, "especially in a community like ours that is so unique and has so many good people in it."