Ballfields’ users still open to debate

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Smithfield Recreation Association gets first dibs on the use of the new Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex baseball fields, with other potential users, such as Isle of Wight County, getting what time is left, according to a draft policy from the town of Smithfield.

The SRA is considered a “Level 1” user who will have first crack at scheduling the use of the five baseball fields for games and practices, and will also operate, and receive revenue from, the concession stand.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In return, SRA will pay a rental fee, but the amount has yet to be determined, said Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Musick.

“It will be their home,” said Musick about SRA. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

SRA will only be using the baseball fields. Also available will be a multi-purpose field. Musick said SRA will likely dominate the baseball and softball fields in the spring and fall and other users will have access in the summer.

The baseball fields will be unavailable in December and January for renovation, according to the policy.

Level 2 users, which includes Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation, will have access to the multi-purpose field first, followed by “Level 3” users, such as adult sports leagues, according to the draft policy.

The multi-purpose field will not be in use until a year after the grass has been planted to give it time to get established, according to Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams. It will also not be available from June through July as it goes through a yearly renovation period, according to the draft policy.

Being labeled as a “Level 2” user has raised concerns with a task force assembled by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors to further investigate its role in the Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex.

The task force met Thursday to go over a draft policy offered by the town concerning the use of the complex.

Isle of Wight County had pledged $250,000 to the project, which is expected to cost about $4 million. The town of Smithfield purchased the land for the project at $775,000. Smithfield Foods and former Foods President and CEO Joseph W. Luter III contributed a combined $3 million, while Farmers Bank has pitched in $175,000.

Fees for Level 2 and 3 users will be established by the town of Smithfield, but those have not been established yet, said Musick.

Another source of revenue will consist of the town taking a 25 percent profit-sharing cut off fees charged by Level 2 organizations for tournaments and other uses, according to an email from Musick.

Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation Director David Smith thought that figure was too low, especially if the town expected to use it to cover expenses.

“They’re cutting their throats,” he said.

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that if the county didn’t charge participants for one of its events, then the town would get nothing.

Musick said she came up with the 25 percent based on it being “a number I pulled from having my own children in Little League.”

The task force also took issue with the level of control outlined in the policy, such as groups requiring approval from the town for putting up tents, having vendors, use of amplified sound equipment and marking fields.

Isle of Wight has staff experienced in marking lines on fields, said Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton.

The county task force also questioned additional information provided in an email from Musick, which limited the number of events for Level 2 users to three dates a year for tournaments and special events. Musick’s email also stated that Isle of Wight County schools could use the fields for practices Monday through Friday from 3-5 p.m.

The schools need to provide input on this, said Newport District Supervisor William McCarty.

County staff planned to meet with town officials to go over the county’s concerns.  {/mprestriction}