BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Baseball fans can soon visit some of their favorite Major League ballparks in Independence County.
The City of Batesville is building replicas of seven famous fields as part of a larger $25 million project funded by a new sales tax.
Voters approved a one-cent sales tax increase in 2012 to pay for new recreational facilities that include a new baseball complex. Crews are now constructing the complex, which officials say will be the most unique ballpark in the state.
"I hope the kids are as excited about it as I am," said Jeff Owens, the parks and recreation director in Batesville. "I feel very, very fortunate just to get the opportunity to be a part of it."
Owens can hardly wait to see kids playing baseball on the seven new fields being built in the Batesville North Complex.
"When you build something like this, it just feeds that kid's dream," he said. "When they step onto a field, it just makes them feel important. If we can do that for kids here, I think we need to take the opportunity."
Owens says when the sales tax passed last year, the city wanted to use some of the revenue to make its new baseball complex more special. They decided to make each field a scaled-down version of one of these ballparks: Busch Stadium in St. Louis; Chase Field in Phoenix; Comerica Park in Detroit; Fenway Park in Boston; Minute Maid Park in Houston; Wrigley Field in Chicago; and Yankee Stadium in New York.
"Instead of you're playing on field three tonight, I'm playing in Wrigley Field," Owens said. "That's just kind of a neat feature."
He says the city wanted to copy these fields because they have very defining characteristics. For instance, crews will build a smaller, 20-foot version of the Green Monster at Fenway. Crews are also trying to figure out how to include ivy for the city's own Wrigley Field.
"We can't put it on a chain link fence because it will deteriorate the fence, but my plan is to put a trellis behind it and plant ivy along it as well," Owens said.
The city is spending about $2.1 million to construct the new baseball complex, while it's dedicating another $800,000 to build 11 new soccer fields and a rodeo arena in Batesville.
The soccer complex is expected to open by September, and the first games should be played at the new baseball fields in Spring 2014.
The largest project funded by the sales tax increase is the new 100,000 square foot community building and indoor/outdoor aquatics center that will be built at Fitzhugh Park in Batesville. The city expects to begin construction on that project in the fall, with a tentative opening scheduled for Spring 2015.