South Charlotte

Want a place to play? Try new athletic fields

Last month, the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department officially unveiled the Elon Park Athletic Fields.

Located on Ardrey Kell Road just behind Elon Park Elementary School, the fields that will be used for football, rugby, lacrosse and soccer were long awaited and, some would say, long overdue.

All four are durable nylon turf. They're similar to the football field at Ardrey Kell High School and the turf field at Davie Park, all state of the art.

Although more expensive on the front end, turf fields offer advantages and savings in the long term, its supporters say. No mowing, no fertilizing, no aeration and seeding, and no watering mean lower maintenance costs and little downtime for maintenance. They conserve water and require fewer contaminating chemicals. And, because they are artificial, they can be played on rain or shine without causing damage to the fields or a complete mud bath for players.

This all equates to fields that can be used constantly. So various athletic leagues that once had to compete fiercely for field time now have some more options. With lights scheduled for installation this spring, those options will grow. (Currently, the park is open from sunrise to sunset).

The site encompasses 120 acres, with just under 50 acres cleared, graded and developed. David Nelson, park planner for the south region, tells me that eventually the park will cover 300 acres. The additional acreage will come from the Fox Hole Landfill in 20-plus years, when the garbage dump is closed and capped. In short, our grandkids and great-grandkids will play atop our garbage.

It's not just the four athletic fields that are new. They have also installed a Beginner Disc Golf Course at the back of the park. Designed in conjunction with the Charlotte Disc Golf Association, the 18-hole course is ready. The association is working with Park and Rec on designing an advanced 18-hole course.

The entire project is a result of a 2004 bond package passed by voters. The park was designed in partnership with the Solid Waste Department (hence the inclusion of the Fox Hole Landfill) as well as the school system. With the park conveniently located behind Elon Park Elementary, the school gets to take advantage of the fields.

With a cost of roughly $4million, the facilities offer benefits for local businesses, schools and the families that live here. Nelson says they are looking into adding pedestrian connectors, picnic areas and a playground with money from the earlier bond referendum. All in all, the facility is a win-win for everyone and, whether in sports or in life, that is the ultimate goal.

It should be noted that we're voting on (you are voting, aren't you?) a 2008 bond referendum package for the county's Park and Recreation Department. You can view details by visiting

www.parkandrec.com.

And take the time to visit the fields to see first-hand how the 2004 bond package benefited our area.

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