By JOHN McBRYDE
Renovated ballfields complete with a concessions facility, LED lighting, restrooms and other amenities could be ready to benefit both the city of Franklin and the Franklin Special School District within two-and-a-half to three years.
At Tuesday night’s work session for the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Franklin Parks Director Lisa Clayton and Parks & Recreation Superintendent Paige Cruise presented an update of the conceptual master plan that was developed in 2017 to improve the athletic fields on the property of the FSSD’s Poplar Grove and Freedom Middle schools.
The plan is a partnership between the city and the school district, and would serve both the middle schools as well as Poplar Grove Elementary, Freedom Intermediate and Johnson Elementary. It would meet the needs not only for FSSD students and athletes but also the broader community.
“We look at it as an opportunity to serve both the schools and their programs as well as help the community provide bonus parkland, if you will, for some of the nearby neighborhoods,” Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey said.
With a probable cost of $5.4 million that would be split 50-50 between the FSSD and the city, renovation and infrastructure updates are expected to be complete by the fall of 2021 to spring 2022.
Clayton and Cruse made the same presentation to members of the FSSD Board of Education and administrative staff a couple of weeks ago, and were met with favorable comments.
Lose & Associates, a Nashville-based company that offers architectural, engineering, recreation design and land-planning services, was contracted in August 2018 to prepare a detailed master plan for the first project to be completed jointly by both entities. The total scope included proposed landscape architecture, architecture and civil engineering services for the school site.
During construction that’s expected to last between eight and 10 months, the existing fields will be closed. But the schools will be able to use the fields and facilities at nearby Jim Warren Park as well as other city of Franklin parks.
“It’s hard not to smile about this,” Clayton said. “We know because we work on it on a daily basis. Athletics are so important to Williamson County, but it’s also very competitive. So providing those spaces, these areas, for these children in elementary and middle school is very important. They come from feeder schools into a very competitive athletic program in Williamson County Schools high schools. You never know where the next collegiate player will end up, boys or girls.”
Many aldermen are keen on the plan.
“I’ve supported the project since the beginning,” Alderman Dana McLendon, 2nd Ward, said. “It’s not just softball, it’s not just baseball. It’s how we make youth into functional, useful, productive, adjusted adults. This is money well spent.”