Multi-Tasking Fields

As a city that functions as part military town and part college town with a population of 126,000, obtaining funds to upgrade existing facilities–much less build new ones–is a daunting task.

A soccer field doubles as an outdoor movie theater.

Cities with similar diverse populations are forcing departments to utilize existing facilities to maximize limited space and resources with innovative, low-cost ideas.

The city of Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department isn’t immune to this issue. When one of the largest venues–a 108-acre park, with the majority being open park land–closed to make way for a new marina, officials were forced to find alternative locations for many of the events.

The second-largest location–a 104-acre facility–was on the opposite side of town. In addition to overcoming limited space, the park staff now had to find alternative solutions to draw people to that side of town.

Other obstacles at this location included eight ball fields, 14 soccer fields, a skate park, a dog park and two playgrounds. In addition, part of the complex was nestled between two schools, thus limiting the amount of open green space.

The complex oversees more than 165 adult softball teams, 700 youth baseball/T-ball participants, 135 special-needs softball participants and 1,800 soccer participants and more than 28 tournaments.

It was decided staff members would need to adapt many of the events to fit this location.

Soccer fields were transformed into “sit-in” movie theaters, where hundreds of families could bring blankets and lawn chairs once a month in the summer to watch a free movie.

The four-field baseball complex was utilized to host a spring Egg-stravaganza that scattered thousands of multi-colored plastic eggs stocked with age-appropriate prizes onto each of the fields.

Eggs--instead of baseballs--are scattered over the outfield for Easter.

Since the fields were divided by age group, it actually made setting up easier than the previous location, where open green space had to be roped off to accommodate each age group and start times had to be staggered to hide more eggs.

It also provided all age groups the opportunity to begin the “hunt” for the eggs at the same time–a bonus for staff members waiting to clean up.

The same fields also were used for a “Halloween egg hunt” that utilized black and orange eggs and was held at night under the ball field lights for the ultimate effect.

Additional opportunities–such as a kickball league for adults and a game for 3- and 4-year-olds called Blastball–also were introduced.

Eventually, the community will see a return on the park when city officials are someday able to acquire funding to build more facilities. In the meantime, the existing facilities have adapted well to the growing needs and may just continue to facilitate the events currently held there, thus giving true meaning to the term “multi-purpose” complex.

Tina Boysha, CPRP, CPSI is athletic director for the Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department in Clarksville, Tenn. She can be reached via e-mail at Tina.Boysha@cityofclarksville.com.

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