The first phase of Brenau University’s athletic complex is finished.
Some finishing touches were needed before the two-year project wrapped up Oct. 30, but the field will officially open to the public Feb. 9 when Brenau’s softball team plays their first home game.
Named the Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park, the complex is located off Jesse Jewell Parkway adjacent to the Milliken plant and near the New Holland neighborhood.
“We’ve been very communicative with current and past residents (of the neighborhood),” said Matt Thomas, vice president for external relations for the Gainesville university.
Historically, the area was used as a sports field behind an elementary school. Now, it will provide a local source of entertainment, said David Barnett, executive vice president for administration and chief financial officer.
It’s also an attractive site, he said, with brickwork on the dugouts and handicap-accessible areas.
The field house has a dressing room with showers, and a patio area has picnic tables and plenty of spectator seating.
“It needed to be high-quality,” Barnett said. “And we attained that goal.”
The field will be closer than the facilities the team currently leases at Lanier Point Softball Complex off Dawsonville Highway.
The proximity will be helpful for student-athletes, who can go back and forth to school and the complex for practices and games, officials said.
“It gives us a venue we can call our own,” Director of Athletics Mike Lochstampfor said.
The softball team was created in 2004 and competed in the 2009, 2012 and 2016 tournaments. Coach Devon Thomas built the nationally ranked team, which was the Southern conference champs in 2009.
“A team of this caliber ... should have a complex of that caliber,” Lochstampfor said.
The field, for example, is collegiate level to the last detail, including exact lengths between the bases and infields to make sure they are consistent with the measurements of other fields. Because of this precision, the field can host national tournaments that couldn’t have happened at Lanier Point.
A second phase is projected to include a soccer field, a track and field complex and community walking paths around the property, Barnett said.
“We are in the midst of fundraising for that,” Thomas said.
A few problems had to be solved before the first phase could be completed. Flood control, for example, had to be addressed. The complex sits in a bowl-like area in a “low spot” in the county, so Barnett had to account for that when the designing it.
Some stipulations on not disrupting the topography of the area were also addressed. Officials also has to work around an aquifer on the property to ensure the water runoff will not disturb the field.