Growing programs cause practice space issues

Staff Writer

Continued growth in Bryant has caused problems for city employees and officials. The most recent issue is the lack of practice space for baseball programs that are growing as well.
During a workshop Tuesday evening, the Bryant City Council discussed a proposed use agreement between the city and the Bryant Athletic Association. If the council approves this agreement, space will be limited for a Bryant business that rents fields for practices.

According to the 2018 agreement, the BAA had access to Bryant Park A, B and C complexes between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, and Ashley Park on Mondays and Tuesdays for the operation of youth baseball. The association also had access to Alcoa 40 Park, Ashley Park and Bishop Park for events, practices and games on the dates and times listed on a schedule provided to the city.
The association is wanting to change this agreement for 2019. According to the 2019 proposal, the BAA would have access to all of the fields at Bishop Park from Jan. 1 through July 31, and all of the fields at Ashley Park from March 1 through June 15. The association would also have access to fields at Bishop Park from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, based on a schedule that will be provided to the city. When not in use, the city has the right to rent fields to other organizations.

According to Darren Hurt, a coach for the organization, the BAA has provided baseball in the city for more than 40 years. Last year, the association had more than 500 children under the age of 14 participate. Registration is currently open for this year. The association pays the city $20 for each participant per season for the field use.
The association also works with the city to organize weekend tournaments. As of now, 10 tournaments are scheduled for 2019.

"Last year, we did rent a couple nights a week for (Bryant business) Maximum Impact, and they asked the Parks Committee to rent more time this year," said Parks Director Chris Treat. "If we agree to this (BAA agreement) or pass this agreement on (to the council) we are essentially saying 'no' to Maximum Impact renting Ashley Park during peak season ... I think the bigger question past Maximum Impact is access in general."

Representatives for Maximum Impact, which that helps coach students for baseball and softball, attended the meeting to speak on how this agreement change would affect the business' access to practice at Ashley Park as it has done for the previous two years. The business is willing to pay up front for half of the rental fees.
"That park has been declining for eight or nine years since Bishop opened up and now there's a demand for these fields because now it's being put to good use," said Mike McKim, with Maximum Impact.

Newly elected Alderman RJ Hawk, who has recently served on the city's Park Committee, outlined the issue for the council.
"We were struck with the fact that the BAA has been the thing for Bryant, right and the majority of Bryant kids have played ball throughout the years, but ... they have a good group of Bryant kids playing with them (Maximum Impact), so I think what the committee's struggle was, was how are we going to say we're not going to let these Bryant kids play on the fields," Hawk said, adding that children should be allowed to choose in what organization they want to play.

Treat said that he feels that the BAA should have priority.
"We're asking the BAA to run this program for us. We want to make sure we have the field space they need to offer good services," Treat said.

Council Member Brenda Miller expressed her concern about this issue, adding that she hopes all parties involved can compromise.
"I would hope that we can let someone rent fields to maximize their program as well as our league to maximize their program," Miller said. "We need to think outside the box here instead of who's in control and think about the kids and what we're doing for the kids ... both of these are needed."

Parks Department employees will continue to meet with both organizations to discuss a compromise and hope they can come to an agreement by the end of the month when the council will gather for a regular meeting.
The council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29.
All meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.