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New field designed to fulfill dreams
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Former Atlanta Brave and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro throws the first pitch at the grand opening of the Field of Dreams in Flowery Branch Wednesday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times
FLOWERY BRANCH — Hall County's athletes with disabilites now have a field to call home.

The Hall County Parks and Leisure Services Board and the Hall County Board of Commissioners celebrated the grand opening of “Phil Niekro Field” as part of Field of Dreams on Wednesday at Alberta Banks Park in Flowery Branch.

The Field of Dreams introduces a youth baseball-sized field designed specifically for people with disabilities and a playground constructed to accommodate those who are unable to use playgrounds found in other parks around the county.

The field was named after one of the original contributors behind the project, former Atlanta Braves pitcher and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

“I’m very proud to be part of this,” said Niekro, who lives in Flowery Branch. “All of those kids who would’ve liked to be in the big leagues can now put on uniforms and play on teams.

“I think there will be more people watching games on this field than the regular field.”

Niekro, along with other contributors including the State of Georgia, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and other individual contributors, joined with Hall County Parks and Leisure to raises the funds needed to construct the $1 million field and the accompanying playground, which cost approximately $250,000 to build. The project had been discussed since 2002.

“With the way Hall County is building, I’m terribly excited,” Niekro said. “People will come from miles to use it.”

The field itself is made out of a rubber-like surface called “Mondo Surface,” built by a company based in Italy and created specifically for fields designed for athletes with disabilities. The surface is painted green and includes bases, baselines and a pitcher’s mound to give it the feeling of a true baseball field. It measures approximately 200 feet from home plate to the foul poles.

The field also features a scoreboard, lights, dugouts for home and visiting teams and its own concession stand.

“It has turned out better than I expected,” Hall County Commission vice chairman Steve Gailey said. “I think it is wonderful that we have this for our children.”

Although a baseball field of its kind is new to Hall County, there are other fields like it in Georgia. The closest park built for athletes with disabilities prior to the opening of Phil Niekro Field was in Alpharetta.

With the new park now officially open, local athletes with disabilities are happy to know that they can eliminate the 45-minute trip to play baseball.

“This is a great day for children and adults with disabilities,” said Gainesville’s Justin Pressley, who currently plays “power soccer,” a form of soccer designed for wheelchair-bound athletes. “Now there is a place where they can play baseball just like everyone else.”

With Phil Niekro Field complete and ready for public use, Hall County Parks and Leisure intends on using the field for programs created specifically for disabled residents.
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