By MARINA WATERS
The dynamite partnership that might have been Washington County and Johnson City officials coming together on the county’s athletic complex on Boones Creek Road seems to have been defused.
The athletic facilities task force — comprised of county and city officials — met on Wednesday, Jan. 24 where Johnson City Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis told the group that the city’s planning and design firm, Lose & Associates, indicated the Boones Creek Road site wouldn’t fill Johnson City’s athletic facility needs.
“This is a consultant that’s been helping us look at stuff for our needs, so he is really familiar with what we’re looking for,” Ellis said. “He summed it up saying at least twice that it’s just not going to meet our needs.”
The letter from the consultant listed a lack of connectivity between the complex’s fields and parking spaces, the need for retaining walls and a lack of spectator space as concerns with the plans for the site.
Ellis also said the city’s main need is four 300-foot baseball and softball fields.
“Youth play during the week is not the need. It’s tournaments,” Ellis said. “Right now, overflow tournaments are going to White Top in Bristol, Domtar, Sugar Hollow, Greenville. That really doesn’t benefit us. It’s the 300 foot fields.”
County Commissioner Bryan Davenport asked if Johnson City would still be interested if they were to utilize two 300-foot fields located at the Boones Creek Road site in addition to the current fields at Ridgeview.
“(Using two locations) really doesn’t help us because when you break up the sites, you’re talking about equipment, personnel, tools,” Ellis said. “That’s why cities nowadays are trying to group their fields.”
City Commissioner Todd Fowler said, however, he didn’t want to close the partnership completely; Fowler suggested that after a plan for what is needed at the site for the county schools is etched out, the group could reconvene once again.
“I don’t wanna kill this thing yet as far as finding out what you can do with the school and what we can maybe get together a scope for,” Fowler said. “If you can figure out how to get four 300-foot fields in there, we’ll come back and talk a whole lot.”