April 19, 2014

Play ball on the Westside

Newest WCRD park as good as any ‘in the state’

The long-awaited Westside Park opened to rave reviews on April 10, with baseball teams ranging from 6 to 12 years christening the the newest Whitfield County recreation facility.

“This has been a dream for the Westside community for many years,” Whitfield County Recreation Director Brian Chastain said.

Now the dream is a reality, and an impressive one at that.

“It’s the best facility we’ve got, there’s no question about that,” Chastain said. “It rates up there with any park in the state. We’re not as big as Heritage Point, but the park is as nice as Heritage Park. We’ve just got four fields where they have 10, but it fulfills the needs for the Westside and Tunnel Hill communities.”

Westside Park, which opened in 2012 with the Miracle Field, now features four more baseball/softball fields, with plenty of parking nearby for players and fans as well as a concession building with a large room on the second floor where meetings with coaches can be held.

Among the fans of the new facility is Chris Kierce, who says he has been coaching at Westside for seven or eight years.

“The park out there has been a long time coming and overdue for that community,” he said. “I can remember as little back as two years ago that we had five teams in the 9-12 age groups that were practicing and playing on one school field. The new park will be great for kids and teams to get a little more elbow room.

“Kids up and coming who don’t know what kids ahead of them were up against as far as limited practice and playing facilities can definitely count their blessings now, that’s for sure,” Kierce added. “Hats off to the commissioners and everybody at the recreation department for  making it all happen. They’ve really outdone themselves and have done great on the project out there.”

Last week’s grand opening festivities featured cake and hot dogs for the public, with some 350 wieners served up to a crowd hungry for food and a place to play, too. Commissioners Harold Brooker and Gordon Morehouse represented the board at the ceremony since several commissioners were out of town due to prior commitments. Westside community leader Steven Nealey also attended the celebration, which featured opening pitches from youngsters on each of the four fields.

“People loved the park,” Chastain said of their first impression. “It’s been nothing but positives. One person said, ‘Well, it looks like now it’s worth the wait. Instead of just throwing something together, putting the park somewhere it shouldn’t be, it’s definitely worth the wait now.’”

Players and parents alike are glad they can practice in their own community now, after years of having to go “anywhere and everywhere,” Chastain said.

In the first week of operations, the park has already been put to good use. Besides the opening night activities with local recreation teams, Westside Park hosted 16 teams from Tennessee and the Atlanta area for an inaugural tournament over the weekend.

“Those people were all bragging about the park,” Chastain said. “I think one of the biggest things they liked was the lake, plus the layout of the fields, how nice they’re constructed, too. People commented on that quite a bit.”

That definitely won’t be the last tournament at the new facility.

“We’ve already got the park booked up for the whole summer with weekend tournaments,” Chastain said.

In the next few weeks, the lake, which adds a beautiful touch to the park, will be opened to the public for catch and release fishing, with a fishing rodeo for the Miracle League serving as the grand opening event. More details will be released later. In case of drought, the recreation department had a well dug that will provide irrigated water to keep the fields in good shape, Chastain pointed out.

The park was built by Jerod Hobbs & Co., the same company that also built the Miracle Field facility, and Whitfield County Public Works crews did the landscaping and helped get it ready for the grand opening.

A walking trail, two football fields and a community center are also included in future plans for Westside Park, and commissioners plan a similar park on the south end of the county, as well as a community center at Edwards Park.

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