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Franklin aldermen lay groundwork to start construction of FSSD ball fields

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After two years of gathering input and laying the groundwork, the Franklin Parks Department presented a parks master plan Tuesday that will soon bring ball fields and walking trails to schools in the Franklin Special School District. 

In the near future, children will be hitting home runs and learning team building skills at the $5.4 million state-of-the-art parks facility to be built between the campuses of Freedom Middle School and Poplar Grove Schools along Highway 96 West.

At the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday, city Parks Director Lisa Clayton and Paige Cruse, parks and recreation superintendent, presented design options that will be used to build the largest parks project ever constructed in FSSD. However, they emphasized that implementing the proper infrastructure is key in laying the groundwork for the project to come to fruition.

FSSD and the city are partnering to fund the project by splitting the cost down the middle.

Clayton and Cruse presented the most viable design option, which includes the replacement of two existing ball fields and the construction of 325-foot baseball fields with 200-foot fencing and softball fields with a restroom area, concessions, pavilion, batting cages and bull pins, equipped with the first LED-lighting system in Franklin. Plus, sidewalks and pedestrian walkways will be constructed.

To accommodate all of the facets of the parks facility, infrastructure must be improved at the site, including stormwater coordination, electrical service and water and sewer services.

Ultimately, to move the project forward, the board of aldermen voted during its monthly meeting to approve $276,300 to secure the services of Lose Design for the ball field reconstruction project.

Aldermen responded favorably to the master plan and expressed their support in helping to fund the project.

“Our city came together in the planning and engineering and finance,” Clayton said.

The facility will accommodate ball games, team practices and events like fast pitch softball tournaments, for example, as well as walking paths open to the community.

The project will take two months to bid, then construction will most likely last 18 months to two years.

Over the past two years, school stakeholders have gathered to give input on how the fields should be designed, and the options presented Tuesday incorporate some of those suggestions from the community.

“I have supported this project with enthusiasm from the beginning,” Dana McLendon, 2nd Ward, said. “I have supported athletic fields all over the city. No ball field in Franklin has been built in over a decade. Population alone suggests we should have done something sooner.”

McLendon also said he supports sports in the community because it’s an outlet in which “adults teach youth how to be a part of a group, succeed and fail in a controlled environment.”

“It’s how we make youth into functional, useful, productive adults. This is money well spent,” he said.

Kevin Townsel, FSSD board member and city employee, said he could not be happier about the fields coming to FSSD.

“I could not be more excited about the prospect of this happening. With the city agreeing to make improvements and charge the school district only half, it is a win-win."

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