For Visit Kingsport Executive Director Jud Teague, who has spearheaded the endeavor since the beginning, the whole project has been quite humbling.
“The way the community has gotten behind it the way they have. It’s been overwhelming,” Teague said.
Teague, a former high school baseball coach, was motivated by his son Nicholas (who has Down’s syndrome) to bring a Miracle League Field to the Model City.
“It’s been pretty humbling and it’s going to be something that people are going to have for a lifetime ... something for the entire region that’ll be hard to duplicate,” Teague said.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
A Miracle League Field is a baseball field built to accommodate special needs children and young adults, but such facilities also serve seniors and wounded warriors. It’s about a third of the size of a normal field and instead of grass or traditional astroturf, the field has a flat, rubberized surface. The mound and all of the bases are flush, so wheelchair users and amputees don’t have to worry about lips and grass.
Kingsport’s field is being built at Brickyard Park (located off Industry Drive) behind the four fields that already exist at the facility. A groundbreaking was held in October, and opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place on May 30.
The project includes the field, a pavilion and an all-accessible playground. The total cost is roughly $2.56 million and donations are still being accepted. Future additions could include a second ball field, soccer field and zip line.
THE LATEST UPDATE
“We’re about 40% complete, we’ve got all of the asphalt down, the building is under roof, and you can tell what’s what,” Teague said. “Work is pretty much on schedule.”
Workers laid the asphalt before the weather turned and it needed to cure for 30 days. Once there are three to five days of consistent temperatures to pour the material for the field, that work will take place.
The playground equipment should be going in soon and interior work on the building — which includes restrooms, storage and a concession stand — is underway. Some of the final work will include installing the brick pavers, landscaping, signage and a statue of the baseball-headed mascot “Homer.”
“I met with the workers this week and after their report I feel pretty good. I think they said they were seven days behind, but when the weather broke they would make that up fairly quickly,” Teague said.
Having a facility in Kingsport will be an enormous benefit for the entire region, as it will be the first Miracle League Field complex in Northeast Tennessee, Teague said. The closest similar facility in Tennessee is in Chattanooga, with Roanoke being the closest in Virginia.
There are more than 300 Miracle League organizations across the country, including Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia, serving more than 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities.
Teague said there are 85,000 children in Tennessee with some type of special need and that once the Brickyard Park facility is complete, it would likely serve 2,500 to 3,000 of those youngsters.
For more information on the project or to make a donation, visit www.miracleleague.com.