Play ball! Rain fails to wash out formal opening of T.A. Dugger ballfields

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Elizabethton school and city officials gathered in Tuesday’s rain to cut the ribbon on new ballfields at T.A. Dugger Junior High School.

This game was not called on account of rain.
A rainy ribbon cutting was held for the new Michael D. Whitehead Sports Complex at T.A. Dugger Junior High School on Tuesday morning.
The TAD sports complex includes a new baseball and softball fields, and the supporting structures such as dugouts, scorers’ tower and restrooms.
The addition of the sports complex adds baseball and softball fields to the school’s campus for the first time.
“This enables the students to stay on campus,” said Superintendent Ed Alexander. “It will be conducive to their performance and will improve student safety.”
Before the construction of the ball fields, TAD baseball and softball teams had to travel off-campus to practice and play.
Ground was broken on the project in April 2013 and was finished in February of this year.
The final cost of the fields is $385,960, which is more than the original $373,000 budget. All of the funding came from reserves, and none came from the half-cent sales tax proceeds.
The system received several monetary and in-kind donations that helped complete the project. Michael Whitehead, for whom the complex is named, donated the fencing and scoreboards for the fields, which are valued at close to $50,000.
“That is the donation that got the project started,” said assistant superintendent Richard VanHuss.
Other donations included $2,500 for the baseball infield sod, which was approved by the school board on April 18, 2013; labor to construct the dugouts, 6 tons of brick dust and brick and blocks for the dugouts and scorers’ tower. The scorers’ tower will also house the restrooms and the concession stand.
VanHuss noted that General Shale had donated all of the brick for the four dugouts at the complex and for the scorers’ tower. They also supplied the brick dust.
“They have been wonderful to us during this project,” VanHuss said.
The brick dust is used for the infield dirt areas. The brick dust is mixed with clay for form the surface area. VanHuss said the mixture is easy to smooth out and makes an even playing surface. The Elizabethton High School baseball team helped spread the brick dust on the field.
“That is a common mixture for infield playing surfaces,” he said.
To build the dugouts, VanHuss said an inmate work crew was used for one dugout. Gary Coontz donated labor and built 2 1/2 dugouts, and the system paid for labor to finish the last dugout and the scorers’ tower.
He added the donation of all the block helped the system have the structures added to the field.
“We had planned to do it but we didn’t think we were going to get to do it so soon,” VanHuss said. “They would have been playing without the dugouts and the scorers’ tower.”
Alexander recognized several more contributors to the project including David Nanney with the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, J & S Fence Co., Custom Guttering, Summers-Taylor Inc., Scotty Hayes Excavating, the T.A. Dugger baseball and softball parents and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
“This was truly a community project,” Alexander said.

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