Columbia Parks and Recreation
Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs
The 81-acre land for the park was donated by Thomas Atkins III in 2002 to the City of Columbia and Boone County, each having undivided one-half interest. The property is adjacent to the 220-acre Boone County Fairgrounds. Mr. Atkins' intent was that the property be developed for youth recreation, with the City and County working cooperatively together on the project.
Bringing Mr. Atkins' dream to a reality was not without obstacles. The last and perhaps only parks and recreation collaborative venture between the two agencies was a project in the mid-1990's to connect the MKT Trail to the State's Katy Trail. Developing a mutually acceptable master plan and operating agreement, not to mention finding funding resources for development appeared challenging. The City already had a five-year Parks and Recreation Capital Improvement Plan in place, with funding commitments to other projects.
Recognizing the City’s previous obligations, Boone County took the initiative to contract with the University of Missouri Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to develop a preliminary master plan for the site in 2003. Based on this master plan, a $76,005 Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant was secured in 2004 to help fund the development of two baseball fields, with a scant $168,900 total budget. With no parks and recreation department in the County, officials planned to use volunteer labor to help build the ball fields, including donated labor and equipment from the National Guard for all of the grading work. However, the County's attempt to break ground on the project was thwarted when the National Guard was called to duty for the war in Iraq.
The project lay dormant until 2006, when representatives from Columbia Professional Baseball, owners of the minor league professional baseball team formerly known as the Mid-Missouri Mavericks, presented a proposal to the Columbia City Council to build a professional baseball stadium on the site of American Legion Park. The impact to the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department would be the loss of the 20-acre park, including two baseball fields, one of which was the only regulation-size baseball field in the City’s park system.
City Manager Bill Watkins directed the Parks and Recreation Department to analyze the options for alternative locations for the current users of the American Legion ball fields, should the City Council decide to move forward with the Columbia Professional Baseball’s proposal. The primary concern was relocating the Junior/Senior League (comprised of 13-16 year olds), as no other ball field in the park system could readily accommodate the base/pitching dimensions for this age group. As a permanent replacement solution, the Department recommended constructing two new baseball fields at the Atkins property. Consequently, and with the County's support, the City took over the lead in the development of Atkins Park.
Columbia Parks and Recreation planners modified the master plan to accommodate two five-field, wagon-wheel ballfield complexes, along with other park amenities. The desire for a tournament-quality ballfield complex and the need to grade the entire project area in preparation for future phases required substantial funding resources. The budget was increased to over $1.4 million with the City's addition of $1,025,000 in Park Sales Tax and $220,235 in Recreation User Fees. Both agencies approved the park master plan and entered into a cooperative agreement in April 2007, making the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department responsible for the development, daily operations, scheduling, and maintenance of the park. A grant extension was obtained, and grading work began in July 2007.
An unusually rainy spring and summer the following year slowed construction progress and prevented completion of the fields in time for the 2008 baseball season. But, in spite of the 60 inches of rainfall and the war in Iraq, the two baseball fields were successfully completed and opened for play on March 31, 2009. The park was officially dedicated on May 11, 2009.
For more information on the park development - see Atkins Park Development Capital Improvement Project.
The ballfields at Atkins Park
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Date: May 11, 2009
Over 100 people gathered for the dedication ceremony held at 5:45pm on Monday, May 11, 2009 for the dedication of Thomas E. "Country" Atkins Jr. Memorial Park. The ceremony celebrated the completion of phase I of the park master plan, which included two full-size baseball fields, 129-car parking lot, irrigation pond, sidewalks, and lighting. The ceremony was held on Black Field preceding scheduled games for the evening. Four area teams, Northern Boone County Harleys, Centralia Titans, Columbia Red Weir, and Southern Boone County Eagles, stood at attention on the field as guests spoke for the dedication program.
Parks and Recreation Director, Mike Hood, welcomed the crowd and introduced the guest speakers. City Manager Bill Watkins thanked the crowd for their support of the Park Sales Tax, which was a major funding source for the project. Mayor Darwin Hindman remarked that children were like the canaries of the community (similar to those used in the old coal mines to indicate whether or not the air was healthy). If they are healthy and active, you will have a healthy and active community. Ballfields such as these contribute to healthy and active youth. Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin spoke about the collaborative effort between the City and County who worked together for the success of the project and commended the City for being a cooperative partner. Mr. Tom Atkins (contributor of the park land) said, "This park is spectacular!" He gave a teary speech as he told the crowd about his father for whom the park was named. He told the crowd that his father often liked to say, "Everything's nice." He assured the crowd his father would have been very pleased with the outcome of the park development and would have said regarding the park, "Everything's nice." Mike Hood closed with thanking his Parks and Recreation staff for their hard work on the project.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors along with the guest speakers and players from the four teams participated in the ribbon cutting.
Tom Atkins, Mayor Darwin Hindman, Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin, and City Manager Bill Watkins simultaneously threw out the "first pitch" to four catchers from the teams scheduled for play. The catchers were Nathan Get of the Harleys, Devin Duncan of the Titans, Chris Tennill of Red Weir, and Brice Mueller of the Eagles. Evening youth baseball games followed the dedication ceremony.
Click on the thumbnails below to view photo enlargements.
|Park Dedication Photos - May 11, 2009|