Mayor to open athletic complex

City to gain 5 fields, 2 ball diamonds, a basketball court

March 23, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Soccer moms, release your children.

Lacrosse dads, rejoice.

In an early-spring picnic tomorrow, Annapolis will nearly double its number of athletic fields with the dedication of the long-awaited Annapolis Sports Complex.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson and other officials will dedicate five new fields, two small baseball diamonds and a basketball court at the complex behind Germantown Elementary School.

Johnson called the additional fields a priority not just of his administration but of his life.

"This goes back to the first PTA meeting I ever attended probably 23 years ago," he said, recalling a gathering at Germantown Elementary where a lack of fields was discussed.

Since becoming mayor, Johnson said, he's heard from parents, coaches and athletic league administrators who have complained about the lack of playing space in Annapolis and around the county.

Many communities use a ratio of one ball field for every 1,000 residents as a goal -- which would compute to 35 fields for the city, Johnson said. With the addition, the city will have 16 fields.

The athletic fields -- especially those for soccer or lacrosse -- have been in constant demand in recent years, said LeeAnn Bogan, the city's recreation and parks director. Before the opening of the complex, the city had five baseball diamonds and four fields.

"Field space is at a premium," said Sherry Whiteford, athletic supervisor for Bogan's department.

Last year, fields were used seven days a week in good weather and scheduling was difficult, she said. Last year, 148 youth lacrosse games, 90 youth soccer games and 171 youth baseball games were played on the nine fields.

Those numbers did not include adult athletic leagues.

Johnson attributes the high demand to an increase in soccer and lacrosse participation, as well as sharp growth in girls' athletics.

The $500,000 construction and renovation of the fields began in late 1998, mostly with state Project Open Space funds.

Though completed in October 1999, the fields -- surrounded until this month with snow fencing -- were given a 1 1/2 -year reprieve from the pounding of cleats so "the turf could establish itself," Bogan said.

"One of the difficulties we have had with having so few fields is they get used both spring and fall, so they never have any time off where we could reseed them or resod them if necessary," Johnson said.

The new fields will be used by thousands of children every week, the mayor estimates.

"It will definitely help out because we will have more places to practice and play games," said John Dunbar, president of Annapolis Baseball Club, a Pony League affiliate with 500 members, who praised the quality of the fields for children's play.

The dedication program will begin at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson will throw the opening pitch on one of the baseball fields before scrimmages begin on the various fields between community athletic groups.

A Baltimore Ravens mascot will also make an appearance at the dedication, which will feature free light picnic fare and rides on a tethered hot air balloon.

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