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By CINDY SIMPSON
With a nod to the if-you-build-it-they-will-come school of thought, Roane State Community College is making a fundraising effort to substantially improve its ballfields to draw tournament play.
And that could be good for the Roane County economy.
Improvements could give the college a chance to host the Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association Region VII tournament. It could also be used for recreational play and tournaments.
“As we started looking at this as a possibility, we realized that not only Roane State would benefit from it, but probably more than anyone else, Roane County could benefit from it from an economic standpoint,” said David Lane, assistant baseball coach for Roane State.
This year the athletic association announced its decision to rotate the tournament among member schools, but the facilities must meet requirements to participate.
Lane said he believes they could contribute around $500,000 in indirect economic impact to the county.
His estimate isn’t farfetched.
Rockwood recreation director Robin Wampler said the numerous summer tournaments held at Rockwood’s sports complex bring in approximately $3.1 million in indirect economic impact to the county.
Wampler said the city has to turn away tournaments because of high demand.
Lane said with improved facilities, Roane State could pick up those tournaments and more, bringing people to Roane County to stay in lodging and eat at local restaurants.
The plans for Roane State’s fields include maintaining the existing two ballfields; adding an indoor practice facility including softball locker rooms, a weight room and storage area; improvements to spectator seating at the baseball field; and adding a press box, umpire dressing rooms and lockers, a baseball locker room and lighting for both fields.
Early estimates for the full proposal were between $400,000 and $500,000.
Pared-down improvements are estimated at $180,000, with an additional $270,000 for lighting from TVA.
Lane said Roane State is looking at a light-leasing program that could cut that cost.
Lane said the goal is to have the fields ready for tournament play in little more than a year.
“We would be up in the rotation spring of 2010,” Lane said.
Donations are trickling in.
“We already have the weights donated,” Lane said.
Lane said it would be nice to see the “Field of Dreams,” as it is being referred to, a reality by next season.
Fundraising initiatives are under way. A $12-a-plate public fish fry is being held Nov. 1. in the Roane State student lounge.
Donations can be made to Roane State Field of Dreams through the Roane State Foundation.
For more information, contact Lane at 354-3000, Ext. 4482 or softball coach Sue Niemi at 882-4574.