Darlington officials, public talk proposed ball fields

Darlington officials, public talk proposed ball fields
Proposed baseball field location at the old football field on Magnolia Street. (Source: Audrey Biesk)
Proposed baseball field location at the old football field on Magnolia Street. (Source: Audrey Biesk)

DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - Two new baseball complexes could be coming to Darlington after nearly 50 years of outdated facilities.

The first public meeting was held Tuesday night at the Harmon Baldwin Recreation Center for people to weigh in on the project.

Darlington City Council members, Mayor Gloria Hines, Darlington County School Board representatives, and Darlington County Parks and Recreation officials spoke in front of a crowd to make sure residents know exactly where the proposed baseball fields will go.

"Ideally, it's not the acreage that we need, but location-wise it's a home run as far as where these parks are," said Lee Andrews, director of Darlington County Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Andrews explained this is an upgrade to the outdoor recreation facilities, which has been a main goal in city planning and can now hopefully happen.

According to Andrews, finding the the land has been the hardest part. The first phase is called the Virgil Wells Complex, a 13-acre piece of land where the old football field sits along Magnolia Street.

The proposed plan is four brand new 210-foot baseball fields. Right now, the Darlington County School District owns the fields and are in a lease agreement with the city.

The second proposed baseball complex is called Blue Street Park, right next to Darlington High School, which is the same plan as Virgil Wells.

"They don't have their baseball field on campus yet. It's actually off at another location, so we have two existing fields here," Andrews said. "If we could give those back to the school district, that would open up a big area to put their baseball field on campus."

Funding for the two baseball complexes will come from the city applying for a $1.9 million bond through the hospitality tax, according to Andrews.

"You know, when you go out to eat here in Darlington and you pay that tax, that money is coming back to the recreation department to fund things such as ball fields," he said.

Along with applying for grants with the South Carolina Parks Recreation Association to help pay for the first phase, which is around $1.3 million,. Andrews said this project is to help bring Darlington together as a whole.

"We will be able to host some things to bring tourism-driven money to the area, such as softball and baseball tournaments," he said. "We already do some things such as the alumni festivals, the homecoming they have through old St. Johns High School and Mayo High School, which is probably one of the biggest tourism events we have besides the race here in Darlington."

All amenities at the baseball complexes will also be upgraded, such as community gardens, picnic shelters, dog parks, and expanded parking.

A second reading on the $1.9 million bond will take place May 2. Andrews said construction on the proposed baseball fields could begin as early as the end of 2017 once funding is approved.

Copyright 2017 WMBF News. All rights reserved.