As it stands now, the demand for athletic facilities in Johnson City far outweighs the available capacity.
Athletic Manager David Carmichael said the city needs an additional four to six rectangular fields and diamond fields to provide for all recreation athletics, church leagues, high school practices, weekend tournaments and more.
The direction offered by Parks and Recreation staff indicated the local resident demand for diamond and rectangle fields is nearly even, but when it comes to luring out-of-town tournaments, the demand is a bit higher for diamond fields. Rectangular fields accommodate sports such as soccer, football, lacrosse and others.
For months and months, the Johnson City Recreation Advisory Board has searched all city-owned properties and land for sale, hoping to identify a optimal location that accommodates at least eight fields.
During Thursday’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis presented an extremely preliminary concept plan for athletic fields on roughly 60 acres, owned by Cambro Partners, near the 2900 block of Indian Ridge Road.
Board members were told that property, costing roughly $30,000 per acre, did present some challenges, including a live spring running through it that feeds a creek, and a retention pond which can’t be removed.
Although architect Daniel Boutte with Lose & Associates is still working on the full concept for the property, he did draw up two rough concepts that Ellis presented at Thursday’s board meeting.
Ellis said Boutte tried designing a combination of both diamonds and rectangle fields on the property, but his preliminary analysis showed it just wasn’t cost-effective.
The first concept showed five 300-foot diamonds and two 225-foot diamonds superimposed on the Indian Ridge Road property. Ellis said the 225-foot fields were basically unneeded because temporary walls could be installed in the 300-foot fields for softball games.
The second concept showed the same property might fit six rectangular fields, but some board members questioned whether more could be sandwiched together.
“We’re hoping — and that’s what we don’t know enough about — to fit more (fields) on there than what we heard (from the preliminary concept),” Board Chairman Jonathan Kinnick said.
“Because when we heard 60 acres, we thought it might fit more, but between the water issues, the drainage, the lay of the land and all of that kind of stuff, it might not fit as many as we were hoping. So we’re still waiting to find out about that.”
Another option for the Advisory Board is building the fields on 62 acres, owned by Joe Wilson and Heyward Sell, that adjoins Winged Deer Park.
Rumors have been flying that Wilson is in the midst of selling his property to a third party, but those have yet to be confirmed so board members are keeping it in the back of their mind.
Earlier this month, Boutte presented the board and city commissioners with two preliminary renderings that featured five 300-foot diamond fields arranged in a star shape, two 225-foot diamond fields and two 180-by-300-foot rectangular fields.
City leaders did experience some sticker shock at the $17.62 million and $18.1 million price tags on the Winged Deer Park concept, which did not include the estimated $2.5 million land acquisition price.
Board member Carrier Fleenor was adamant Thursday she would not approve of the city spending that much on athletic fields.
Other options include splitting the fields between the two properties.
“For example, we put diamond fields next door here at Winged Deer. We could fit five there. That would meet our recreational needs and it would be nice to have this many (10) in one place,” Kinnick said.
“Then we put at least six (rectangle fields), we know we can fit that, out on Indian Ridge. Eight or 10 would be even better, but there’s not going to be enough money to do all this immediately.
“We’d still like to see a commitment to move forward on what we can. If we can get the land now and do it later, that would be nice, but we don’t make those final decisions.”
Boutte is expected to present his final concept of the Indian Ridge Road property at a Dec. 7 meeting with commissioners and advisory board members.
Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.