Last fall, the city of Kingsport was awarded a $250,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The funds required a $250,000 match, which came from a $100,000 donation from Weyerhaeuser and a $150,000 appropriation in the city's capital improvement plan last fiscal year.
Parks and Recreation Director Kitty Frazier said the funds will go toward installing lights at the two remaining ball fields at Weyerhaeuser Park and one soccer field at Eastman Park. The money will also cover the cost of installing some parking lot lights at both parks and some electrical work to light the new sign at the entrance of Eastman Park.
Frazier said if everything goes according to plan, construction should begin in late August or early September and last about 120 days, then finish up in the fall.
"We'd definitely be ready by spring," she said.
When complete, all eight ball fields and three of the six soccer fields will be lit.
Weyerhaeuser and Eastman parks opened in June 2005 and quickly became popular among soccer and baseball fans in the Model City. The Holston Valley Futbol Club, which runs the soccer league for the city, has more than 1,300 participants in its recreation and competitive soccer programs. Frazier said 850 games were played at Weyerhaeuser Park last year, with attendance topping just over 50,000.
In addition, the two parks have also become home to numerous AAU and USSSA tournaments, including the upcoming USSSA Baseball 11 & Under World Series and USSSA Baseball 14 & Under World Series.
Including $350,000 for bridge enhancements to Weyerhaeuser Park, the city has spent $5.5 million to $6 million on the two parks. A portion of the money came from donations raised by the Renewal! The Spirit Campaign, a private effort to raise funds for a variety of community projects including the parks, a skate park and new YMCA.
The lighting improvements are part of the phase two list of work to be done at the two parks, Frazier said, adding that other amenities could be done at the parks as the money becomes available.
"If you look at the city's (capital improvement plan), there is proposed funding in the 2009 budget for K-Play. A lot of that will depend on the funding available," Frazier said. "Even with the master plan, we're obviously constantly tweaking it to see what really fits now that we're using the facilities and how programs change."
Phase two at Eastman Park calls for walking trails, additional landscaping, parking lot curbs and a possible extension of the breezeway. Phase two at Weyerhaeuser Park calls for a maintenance building, sand volleyball courts, landscaping, batting cages, irrigation pump station, walking trail, picnic shelters, stamped pattern asphalt, and potential shade covers for the bleachers.
Phase three at Eastman Park includes an additional maintenance storage building, lightning warning detention systems, bleachers, small interpretive shelters around the walking trail, a possible parking lot expansion, Horse Creek bank stabilization, and lighting two remaining fields. Phase three at Weyerhaeuser Park includes warning tracks, a playground, lightning protection, an extension of the concrete plazas, more bleachers, picnic shelters, additional parking, and a potential spray pad/water feature.