Officials with the Miracle League of Newton County unveiled a new design recently that will not only reduce costs but is also expected to make the facility a more attractive venue for large community events.
The Miracle Field baseball complex will be located directly east of the current City Pond complex and will be built over the football field, which will allow for 150additional parking spots to be built.
Tamara Richardson, consultant for the local Miracle League project, said officials hope the fields, concessions and special needs playgrounds will make the park a destination for events, traveling baseball tournaments and a regional draw for special needs children looking for specially-designed playground equipment.
Original plans called for the Miracle League complex to be located at the Covington Police Department's shooting range, which is further down Williams Road. The police department was pursuing building a new shooting on Ga. Highway 36; Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he is reviewing the department's options but nothing has yet been determined.
The new location will allow the complex to be built for $500,000 to $750,000 less because of several reasons, including not having to clean up lead from the shooting range, using one of City Pond's existing ball fields for the complex, using existing light poles and enabling exiting City Pond workers to more easily maintain the complex.
The total cost of the project is expected to be around $2 million, Richardson said Thursday, though the project should be able to be built entirely with $1.5 million in SPLOST funds thanks to the construction being done by the Georgia Department of Corrections, which will cut around 30 to 45 percent of the costs.
Another benefit is that the recreation commission will be able to shift around $200,000 in 2011 SPLOST funds that were going to be used to repair the football field; that money will be able to go toward repairs at another park.
Richardson said the idea to move the field came out of a brainstorming session between the civil engineer on the project and recreation officials.
"You look at something a million times and then the next time you see something new," Richardson said. "We were looking at cost, location and usage, and then (Recreation Director) Tommy (Hailey) and one of staff looked at each other and said ‘What if we put it by the football field?' We used their software and started shifting things around and it worked."
Richardson said the new location also has a safer entrance and exit than the old location because of the hill and limited line of sight further down Williams Road.
"That always made us a little bit nervous," she said. "This is also a bigger piece of property at the new location, so if we want to add a pavilion or parking later on, we can."
While a football field would be lost, the recreation department still has Wolverine Field and the field at Turner Lake Park, as well as the ability to use school system fields if needed. The demand for baseball fields is greater as baseball is a seven to eight month program, while football lasts only two and a half months.
The complex normally wouldn't be constructed for several years as SPLOST funds gradually came in, but Newton Federal has agreed to loan the project $1.5 million at a "great" interest rate, Richardson said. The Covington City Council had previously agreed to loan money to the project, but Newton Federal stepped in.
Richardson said construction could begin in September or October and would take between eight and 12 months.