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STAFF WRITER, derek harryman
The lights at the Babe Ruth field have not been working since a fire to the breaker box and there are currently lights out at the tennis courts at Fred Deadman park but Rec. Department head Bonnie Gamble says both should be fixed soon.
“With the Babe Ruth lights, we had to get three quotes, we got the quotes, gave Lawson’s the bill and now we are waiting on them to do it, they had to order a new panel, we are waiting on them,” said Gamble. “It should be ready to go any time, A.J. (Fox, head of maintenance) he hopes to have them working by the end of the week. Our problem is often when we go gets quotes they don’t get back to us right away. We have to get quotes on anything over $1,500 and this is around $2,000.”
So long as everything stays on schedule the lights on the field will be operational by the time the new Manchester Youth Baseball 13-16 year-old league begins play in May.
The lighting situation at the field has affected Westwood baseball more than anyone, the team has only had one home game and has had to ask other teams to leave school early to play in Manchester. Despite the setbacks, Rocket head coach Tyrell Campbell understands things take time to get fixed and says the lack of lighting hasn’t been half as troublesome as the weather.
“The teams who are supposed to come to us, Fayetteville and Moore County both had to leave school early to come play us,” said Campbell. “But not having lights hasn’t forced us to make as many schedule changes as the weather has, I don’t think the lights have affected our season at all.
It would be nice to have them, we have to play a double header at Huntland because both our schedules are too full and that is the only day we can play but it hasn’t been that bad.”
There is also a problem with the lights on the tennis court but Gamble says that too will be fixed soon.
“All the lights on the tennis court are working, there are a couple bulbs out but the lights are so old we can’t buy them anymore,” explained Gamble. “We have to replace the fixtures and C&H is in the process of doing that.
Gamble says she knows that as more bulbs go out, more fixtures will have to be replaced and she would like to change them all out now if it is finically feasible.
“Until we get the cost estimate I don’t know if we are going to replace all of the fixtures or just the two that are out. The frustrating thing is we are putting a band aid on things that need to be replaced. The cracks in the court are getting so bad it is almost to the point where it can’t be used, we just don’t have the funding to fix it.”
The director says the tennis courts were resurfaced several years ago but the crack came right back. Now she says the only option is to completely re-lay the court but says she would want to know if it is the placement of the tennis facility that is causing the problems or just the age of the playing surface. If it is the ground beneath the courts, Gamble says there has been talk in the past of turning the current tennis courts into basketball courts and building a new tennis complex at Dave King park. There would be several obstacles however. Firstly there is the issue of money, she says the project would cost in the nationhood of $300k, but another concern Gamble has is she doesn’t know how badly the community wants a new tennis complex.
“We have playgrounds being used 24/7 and they need a lot of work too, there are a lot of needs and we have to prioritize what gets fixed first and the tennis courts are not a small repair job.
We had discussed building new tennis courts at the other park but we aren’t sure if there is enough room and we simply don’t know how high that project ranks with the citizens. I put out a needs survey and one of the things we listed was tennis courts, we want to have them and if it were an easy fix it wouldn’t be a problem. But it is a large investment and there are maybe forty people that use them on a consistent basis and we have playground equipment that has to be fixed too and it is used every day by a lot of people.”
She says the tennis court is in her five-year-plan but she would like more feedback from the community on the subject.
“If the community wants tennis courts they need to speak up, they need to let us know that it is a priority. When we do assessments the people who respond list greenways, trails and soccer fields as the things they want fixed the most. Talk to your alderman, come talk to me, the community has to let us know.” said Gamble…
Read more in this week’s (April 2) print edition of the Manchester Times.