By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Floyd County has agreed to partner with New Albany Little League to construct a new baseball and softball complex on a site near the Interstate 265 interchange along Charlestown Road.
New Albany Little League President Mark Boone announced at a press conference Monday that the organization will move forward with its plan even if the city pursues its own park.
Last month, Mayor Jeff Gahan introduced a proposal to build a new Little League facility — possibly at the former Hoosier Panel site off Silver Street — at an estimated cost of $5 million.
Boone said Monday it was New Albany Little League that first presented the administration with the idea of building a facility at the Hoosier Panel site, but that the organization viewed the property as too small.
New Albany Little League plays at fields off Mount Tabor Road, but the property has been widely seen as inadequate for the organization due to space and safety issues.
Boone said New Albany Little League has a purchase agreement in place with Northside Christian Church for the property, and the first phase of the project including land acquisition will cost $3.8 million.
The first phase of the plan would include six baseball fields, which is two more diamonds than New Albany Little League has. The second phase would feature the construction of four softball fields, and would bring the total project cost to $6 million.
“We think that this could not just be good for baseball, but we think it could be an economic driver,” Boone said, as he added Little Leagues typically bring 1,000 people to the park a week during the season.
Meeting with the mayor
Gahan met with Little League officials Sunday, and his administration issued a press release Monday citing his intention to move forward with the city’s project.
“In just over a month since the city began operation of its own city parks department, the plans of having a centrally-located facility for the children of New Albany to play baseball are nearing completion,” Gahan said. “We are eager to begin the discussion with the New Albany City Council about these new exciting quality-of-life projects.”
The administration pointed out the proposed New Albany Little League site is outside the city limits. However, the administration agreed to assisting in the permitting process if the organization moves forward with its plan.
Boone estimated the facility could be completed in two years depending on community support and the garnering of funding partners. He said New Albany Little League wouldn’t play on the city’s fields even if they’re completed first.
“We don’t think the city should have two baseball parks,” Boone said. “We think we have a better plan,” he added, saying he though the county/Little League plan would also be more cost-effective.
Floyd County now a partner
Though how much it will commit hasn’t been determined, Floyd County Commissioners and Floyd County Parks Board have passed resolutions in support of the New Albany Little League project.
Boone said the county views the Charlestown Road site as a parks project that will add green space in an area that needs it. He added New Albany Little League also favors its plan over the city’s because features such as a walking path, playground area and open spaces would be garnered by the organization’s project.
He referenced a 2008 joint city-county parks plan that cited a major deficit in parks space in the I-265 corridor of Charlestown Road.
The city ended its parks partnership with the county last year primarily over funding discrepancies. Now, the county is the first financial partner to be announced in a project to serve New Albany children.
Boone estimated that more than 400 kids play in the league each summer.
Floyd County Parks Director Roger Jeffers said the organization’s plan meets the needs of the community.
“I’ve been here five years and this is by far the best plan that’s been brought before the board or myself,” Jeffers said. “It meets all the needs, not just so much for Little League, which is the prime thing that needs to be addressed, but for green space and park space on the east side of Floyd County.”
Floyd County Parks Board member Steve LaDuke, who like Jeffers was a part of the former joint recreation department, said the 2008 study identified a need for 80 acres of park space in the area.
Currently, there’s only 1.5 acres to serve 12,000 people in the corridor, Jeffers and LaDuke pointed out.
“Not only are we looking at baseball, we’re looking at parks facilities,” LaDuke said as to why the board supported the proposal.
It also hasn’t been determined if parks employees will help with maintenance of the Little League facility if it comes to fruition, Jeffers said.
Lay of the land
According to Boone, New Albany Little League can proceed with constructing the baseball complex without acquiring zoning changes. He said the more than 30-acre site has been examined by engineers, planners and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and they have supported the property as a location for a park. He said the location is easily accessible to city residents because of its proximity to I-265.
Scott Murphy has a 10-year-old son who has played at New Albany Little League. He supports the organization’s plan, and added the closeness of the current fields to Mount Tabor Road has always concerned him.
“I’m surprised during the last 30 years there hasn’t been an accident here,” Murphy said.
There will be a question-and-answer session for Little League parents about the plan Feb. 23. The time and location for the event haven’t been determined.*
ON THE WEB
• To see a conceptual design of the fields, visit the website www.nallb.com