County must move quickly to resolve field rental issues

Published 8:57 am Monday, March 11, 2024

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Build it and they will come.

That mantra from “Field of Dreams” is so ingrained in our social consciousness that even fans who haven’t seen the Kevin Costner movie understand the reference.

Build it – a ballpark. And they – the players – will come.

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Since unveiling more than $2.2 million in renovations to Chester Willis Field in late February, attendance at high school games on the Adams County owned field has been at an all-time high. The new playing field has drawn high praise from coaches, players and fans. And the field is drawing the attention of others, from tournament organizers to college programs.

This week, county residents realized we don’t have the answers to what happens when “they” come.

Adams County Supervisors learned Monday that a representative of Alcorn State University’s athletic department had requested and received permission to play on the field from Natchez High officials, who had no authority to grant that permission. Supervisors took no action during their regular board meeting, but did call a special meeting on Friday morning to address procedures and policies for use of the field.

At issue is whether use of the county-owned field should follow existing rental procedures and scheduling polices managed by the county as well as how the county will manage the process.

While Friday’s meeting yielded no resolution on Alcorn’s use of the field this weekend, the bigger issue remains of how to manage this field. Both Natchez High and Cathedral School use the field as “home field” for their baseball programs, and any changes regarding costs to play and terms of use will affect both entities.

County leaders need to quickly put together guidelines and plan for use of the facility and share those details with the public, a move we’d like to see happen sooner than the regular meeting on March 18. Both Cathedral and Natchez High use the field on a weekly basis, and those schools too need guidelines on what they can and should do when using the field – from costs to maintenance and upkeep.

Having a solid plan could help the county recoup some of the expenses of renovating and operating Chester Willis Field, which would be a fiscal win for taxpayers and, more important, perhaps generate some much-needed revenue to complete the renovations at the park.

As a county, we have invested too much into the redevelopment of this park to do anything less.