June 29, 2016 Edition

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Stewart Park ball fields see
renovations, additions in 2016

Aubree Hughart
Staff Writer

Ongoing efforts to improve the sports complex at Stewart Park have shown noticeable results as the Walnut Ridge ballpark is in full use this season. The results are a joint effort of both the city of Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County, along with the help of numerous volunteers and the Walnut Ridge School.

The renovations began with getting rid of the old batting cages, and closing a section of Northwest Second Street in order to connect and allow improvements to the fields. Callahan Farms, Hicks Farms, Brady Farms and many local volunteers helped with excavation, finishing work and field renovation.

In March, Reynolds Asphalt of Pocahontas paved walkways to connect the multiple ball fields at the park in order to bring the ball fields into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jacob Kersey, committee member and father of two athletes who enjoy playing baseball and softball at the local park, says that the biggest upgrade to the fields is the brand new girls' softball field, which is currently being used for league play and will be used next season by the Walnut Ridge Lady Bobcat softball team.

The field's scoreboard is not operational at this time but will be ready for next season. Additionally, light poles have been donated and some additional lighting has been purchased to improve the new field for next season.

Williams Mechanical of Jonesboro has donated temporary air conditioning units for the concession stand and will be putting in a permanent unit.

Kersey also noted that extensive dirt-work has been done on all the fields, thanks to the help of many volunteers. "The main field is in the best shape I've ever seen it in, and I've been around for 16 years."

With all the upgrades to the fields, baseball and softball is in full swing this summer. Teams play games Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights typically beginning at 5 p.m.

In addition to the physical changes at the park, the local programs have switched their affiliation from Little League to Cal Ripken. According to Kersey, this provides the teams with more local competition in the area for tournaments.

Also, this season, baseball teams from Imboden are also participating in the program at Stewart Park.

Overall, the improvements to the baseball and softball fields at Stewart Park have been very successful. Kersey knows that there are still things left to be done, but said that the fields have come a long way in the past year.

"I'm excited about it... We have some growing pains with things like the parking situation, but people see that with progress, there will be bumps and bruises," he said. "Everyone has been very understanding, and it's been great to see how good our fields look."

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