More fields are sought for leagues

January 23, 1995|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Elkridge needs up to six more baseball and softball diamonds to accommodate a surge of children in recreational leagues, athletic officials say.

Last season, the number of children in recreational softball and baseball leagues offered by the Elkridge Youth Organization increased by 33 percent, from about 750 children to nearly 1,000, organizers said.

As in other parts of the county, population growth has outpaced the number of available ball fields.

"I had complaints from parents [last year] because their girls didn't see a baseball field all summer," said Sandy Baker, president of the Elkridge Youth Organization. The group's players were forced to use football and soccer fields or play Sundays, usually a day of rest for teams that don't travel outside the county.

The Elkridge Business and Professional Association says it is willing to maintain up to six more fields if the county finds the space and builds them.

"We want 300-foot fields capable for use by kids from 5 to 95 years old," said Dave Grabowski of the Elkridge Adult Athletic Association. The 20-member organization uses some of the same fields as the youth program.

The county has no plans for such fields, but County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the proposal by Elkridge business leaders sounded feasible.

The business group has identified six sites as potential ball fields:

* Rockburn Branch Park.

* A 55-acre manufacturing-zoned parcel off Port Capital Drive.

* And four pieces of county-owned land close to Ducketts Lane, off Meadowridge Road, near Lennox Park off Route 176 and at the Troy Historic Site, near Interstate 95 and Route 100.

"I think it's doable," said Mr. Ecker of the proposal. "The business community is willing to help . . . pay for it. If we can find the space, we can do it."

Elkridge teams now use eight ball fields: six at Rockburn Branch Park and two at Elkridge Elementary. Two new fields at Elkridge Landing Middle School won't be ready for play until next year. To ease growing pains, county parks officials plan to add five fields at Rockburn Branch Park this spring.

But athletic organizers said those fields -- next to Rockburn Elementary -- are too small for older players to use. They also fear that the county would take control of two multipurpose fields used for baseball and softball games and use them to accommodate soccer and football players.

Athletic officials attribute the dearth of fields to new families moving into the area.

"Everywhere you turn, there's a new housing development," Ms. Baker said. She expects about 150 to 200 more children to register this year. By 1999, 3,665 students -- about 1,000 more than this academic year -- are expected to attend schools in northeastern Howard County, school enrollment figures show.

Athletic officials said they feel squeezed by the area's growing population.

Of 400 children registered to play baseball and softball this season, up to 60 are new to the program, Ms. Baker said. Three more sign-ups are scheduled later this month.

"It's so frustrating for us," said Rich Grantham, Elkridge Youth Organization's coordinator and softball commissioner. "We may have to turn kids away."

The county Recreation and Parks Department is preparing a plan that would identify the county's recreational needs for the next 15 years. When the report is finished in the next few months, county officials said, they will be able to better assess Elkridge's needs.

"We're trying to provide for Elkridge," said County Councilman Darrel Drown, whose district includes Elkridge. "There's a real shortage of athletic fields."

Despite the possibility of over-enrolling, the Elkridge Youth Organization will hold registration at the Elkridge Library from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Jan. 31.

"We love what we have," Mr. Grantham said. "We just need a little bit more."

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