Community groups and city departments are working together to renovate a Fort Smith softball field.
The City of Fort Smith Parks Department, Fort Smith Public Schools and Boys & Girls Club, Northside High School Lady Bears softball team, and Stephens and Jeffrey Clubs have the opportunity to give an existing softball field at Martin Luther King Park a total makeover.
The field, which is just a mile and a half from Northside, will become the new home of the Lady Bears. The team currently uses the field at MLK Park for practice, but they must travel more than six miles to Ben Geren Park for their home games.
"By having their own softball field that they can put a sign up 'Home of the Lady Bears' and take pride in fixing it up, you know, that just means something to you," said Jim Rowland, Athletic Director for Fort Smith Public Schools.
Rowland said there is no real estate left around Northside to build additional athletic facilities, but MLK Park is conveniently located to where many of the players live.
Mike Alsup with Fort Smith Parks said the field will get new fencing and dugouts, concession and press box, a place for pitchers to warm up and possibly a batting cage.
"The clay infield that we have down there currently isn't the top of the line clay infield so we're looking at improving the infield and then getting turf and irrigation on the outfield," said Alsup.
The improvements will cost about $300,000, which will come entirely from community support. Rowland said alumni will be the driving force behind the fundraising efforts.
"The people of Fort Smith have always stepped up, and I think they'll step up again especially for the opportunity to help these ladies have a new home," said Rowland.
Alsup said they hope to have the new field up and running for the start of the Lady Bears' 2015 spring season.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the project, you may send a check made out to the Fort Smith Park Partners, noted MLK Ballpark, to P.O. Box 934, Fort Smith, AR 72902.