KINGSPORT — Special needs children, like every other child, want a place to play, have fun and spend time with their friends and family.
And in less than a year, if all goes according to plan, these children will have such a place at Brickyard Park in Kingsport.
The plan in question is the Miracle Field project — a project first visualized six years ago that calls for the construction of a special baseball field, pavilion and all-accessible playground adjacent to the four regulation fields at Brickyard Park.
A public fundraising campaign for the project is now underway and will continue for the next 30 days. Jud Teague, executive director of Visit Kingsport, gave an update on the project to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday afternoon, outlining how much money has already been raised and when construction is expected to get underway.
It's a project that hits close to home for Teague and his wife; they have an 11-year-old son, Nicholas, who was born with Down Syndrome.
“It's about creating something in the region ... and my wife and I felt like it was something that we needed to step out and make come to fruition,” Teague said.
WHAT IS A MIRACLE FIELD?
A Miracle Field is a baseball field that’s about a third of the size of a normal one. Instead of grass or traditional astroturf, the field has a flat, rubberized surface. The mound and all of the bases are flush, so wheelchairs and amputees can run on the surface without having to worry about lips and grass.
The master plan also calls for a boundless playground and a pavilion in the first phase, with room for a second field or zip line in a future phase.
In addition to special needs children playing baseball at the field, the facility could also accommodate wounded warriors, seniors, young children and be host for birthday parties and light shows, Teague said.
Tennessee only has a handful of Miracle Fields across the state, with the closest one being in Chattanooga. In Virginia, the closest one is found in Roanoke.
“This'll be something nobody else in the region can replicate,” Teague said.
STATUS OF THE PROJECT
Teague first pitched the idea of a Miracle Field six years ago, around the time Brickyard Park was in development. However, a number of other fundraisers were going on at the time, and Teague felt like then was not the time to kick off another one.
Fast forward a few years to 2018 and in a meeting with city, business and education leaders Teague sought input on whether the project was a good idea. The decision was unanimous, and in April, Teague started with the private fundraising effort.
Four months later in August, he hit the $1 million mark. On Monday, Teague said the project has $1.36 million in cash, $340,000 of in-kind pledges and an additional $150,000 to $200,000 in pledges pending.
All told, Teague said he's raised about $1.8 to $1.9 million. Total cost of the project is roughly $2.5 million. Groundbreaking is scheduled for August, with the facility opening in April 2020.