Our board met Sunday night to discuss the proposed move of the baseball fields from Dunwoody Park to Peachtree Charter Middle School. We understand the rationale for rebuilding Austin at the Park, although we all have sentimental reasons for wishing it wasn't so.
Nonetheless, we would like to be as supportive as we can of the overall spirit and direction of the City's pending agreement with the School Board. However, there are certain obstacles that stand in the way, as we discussed. This email is to document those obstacles and offer a solution.
The primary obstacles to making the PCMS site work are:
1. Traffic and parking at PCMS - Carpool is from 3:55 pm to 4:35 pm, Mon-Fri, and creates congestion along North Peachtree during that time. In addition, the parking lots are mostly full until after carpool is over. Teams begin arriving for
Middle School League games at 4 pm Mon-Fri from February 1 thru mid-April.
Rec ball teams (ages 13-18) at 4:30 pm mid-April thru mid-June and September 1 to mid-November.
Tournaments fill in weekends when we don't have rec games and can attract as many as 700 from Friday night thru Sunday noon, 200 at any one time.
Conflicts with the PCMS schedule are not limited to dismissal times. The school also hosts SAT exams, plays, concerts, PTCC meetings, school athletic events and the like. All of these will create parking conflicts with our programs.
From February 1 thru August 31 of this year, we hosted over 800 total events, (536 games and 280 practices) which means we averaged 4 a day, every day for 7 months. We are fortunate to be so busy - youth baseball is alive and well in Dunwoody, but it leaves us no room to adjust our schedule.
2. Traffic and parking contention at Brook Run on certain weekends - For example, our Middle School League playoff weekend attracted 350 people and was during Lemonade Days this year. Tournaments are hosted 15 to 20 weekends a year.
3. Parking access - Coaches with equipment, grandparents, mothers with small children and the physically handicapped will have trouble negotiating the long distance and the slope of the sidewalk/ramp to the fields from the PCMS parking lots. The proposed additional 34 slots idea is nice but represents only 25% of what we now have. In addition, it will create a management problem for us that we don't have today.
4. Control of the Fields - The amount of work required to repair the mounds and plate areas on a regular basis is not trivial and can be undone by otherwise well-intention kids on the playground. In addition, since we use mostly high school students to do our daily prep work, we often line and drag the fields the night before or early in the morning to meet our schedule needs. As a side note, the now proposed arrangement is contrary to what we were told from the beginning. In fact, it was suggested by School Board staff that we lock the fields during the day to prevent problems, something we do not do now, and don't want to have to do in the future.
5. Although we have seen preliminary drawings, we want to verify that the proposed site at PCMS is actually big enough to construct two fields that give us at least what we have today. We are working on doing that and so will withhold those comments at this time.
Those are the major concerns we have regarding the proposed location of the new fields.
As for a solution, we suggest that the City build two new ballfields in Brook Run, with access from Peeler and dedicated parking, more consistent with the 2010 Parks Master Plan. This would help solve the issues listed above by redirecting traffic away from PCMS and the rest of the Park, and by giving us parking with close proximity, as we have now. Control would be less of an issue and field sizes would be easier to design.
This would also enable the construction of two or three multi-purpose fields at PCMS, fields that make more sense for the schools and the City. PCMS currently uses this space for both athletic and non-athletic activities during the school day, but never for baseball, so baseball fields would be of no benefit to the school and only add to the maintenance burden, as above.
In addition to being more appropriate for PCMS, these fields would help meet the growing demand for soccer and lacrosse as youth team sports. Dunwoody High School alone has 4 lacrosse and 4 soccer teams that now share the DHS football field with the track team for practices. Those teams and others could use these fields after school. This would then be a win for youth sports as well as for PCMS and other area schools. And, it is something we could support.
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further. I look forward to your reply.