Miracle League seeks 'place of their own'
Warwick non-profit commits $300K to build area's first 'safe-surface' field at former prison
Photo by John Haughey The baseball field at the former Mid-Hudson Correction Facility, complete with dugouts and still-installed bases, has been idling unused under a blanket of three-foot high grass since the state closed the center in 2011. A local non-profit group wants to partner with the Town of Warwick to build two smaller fields, including the area's first "safe-surface" diamond, and make the site the home of the Miracle League of Orange County, a baseball league for disabled children.
BY JOHN HAUGHEY
WARWICK — The same fields where incarcerated boys played baseball for decades may soon provide a Miracle League of indomitable athletes with a permanent "place of their own."
The Warwick Town Board on June 12 agreed to consider a proposal to allow Beautiful People, a Warwick-based non-profit that provides adaptive sports opportunities for disabled children, to build two additional ballfields at the former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, including what would be Orange County's only rubberized "safe surface" field.
No more 'borrowed fields'
Beautiful People's Jan Brunkhorst said the proposed three-field complex would be the home fields for the Orange County affiliate of the Miracle League, a national baseball league with 200 chapters for children with disabilities founded in 2000.
Right now, she said, the Miracle League of Orange County baseball teams - children 5 and up from "200 families" - "play on borrowed fields" throughout the county.
Since Beautiful People partnered with the Miracle League in 2007, the goal "we've been hoping for is to provide (the Miracle League) with a place of their own," Brunkhorst said.
Beautiful People and the Miracle League can commit up to $300,000 "give-or-take" to "build out three operable fields," Beautiful People's Jeremy Havens told the board.
He said it may cost up to $200,000 alone to build the rubberized safe-surface field, which would include about 15,000-square-feet of "synthetic safety surface."
Brunkhorst said it would be the first safe-surface field of its type in Orange County, noting the nearest one in Westchester County draws 300 children on the weekend and 500 adults during the week.
"I think there is some economic benefit from people coming from all over the county" to use the unique field and enjoy Miracle League games," Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said.
Sweeton said the town will iron out a proposed draft agreement and "continue to discuss the details with our attorney."
"The goal would be to have (the fields) ready and open with the beginning of the season next spring," Havens said.
The 730-acre, 81-building Mid-Orange Correctional Facility was one of seven state prisons closed in fall 2011, taking with it 322 local jobs. This March, the state approved the transfer of 150 acres to the town's Warwick Valley Local Development Corp. (WVLDC) for $3.5 million and the remaining 580 acres to the town for $1.
The WVLDC is developing the 150-acre parcel as the Warwick Valley Office and Technology Corporate Park. The town, as a condition for paying just $1 for the remaining 580 acres, must keep it largely undeveloped for land preservation purposes and publicly accessible recreation.
The town's Mid-Orange Advisory Committee - which Havens served on - in its 2012 final report specifically called on the town to "use some of the facilities, particularly the gym and pool areas, as a physical fitness and rehabilitation center for disabled individuals …."
The town-owned, 580-acre area includes the existing baseball field with dugouts where Beautiful People proposes to build three fields, including its safe-surface diamond. The area already features nearby bathrooms, a 35,000-square-foot, two-story gym and an 800-square-foot pavilion all perched on Wickham Lake.
Havens said the group would also expand the parking lot and extend pavement to the fields and pavilion to provide wheelchair access.
For more information on Beautiful People, go to http://www.beautiful-people.us.
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