Hernando County Swings and Misses with Sports Complexes
By Danny Aiello Jr.
While Hernando County has parks and complexes designed to give residents something to do, the one thing the county seems to be lacking is a dedicated baseball and softball complex.
A complex capable of hosting tournaments to bring in additional revenue for the county is missing, and in turn costing the county money and recognition from holding local and state tournaments.
For example, Delta Woods Park offers residents tennis courts, basketball courts and football fields. While you can find people playing the various sports as well as Saturday Shuffleboard, the lack of a baseball and softball complex is glaring.
Veteran’s Park has a lone softball field and two football fields, which helps run the local softball league and pee-wee football, but doesn’t allow for larger scale tournaments due to it’s limited size.
Ernie Weaver Park supports enough fields to host a little league tournament, however, the location leaves a lot to be desired.
The closest the county has to a baseball or softball complex would be Anderson Snow Park which is the home of the Spring Hill Dixie Baseball and Softball leagues. However, the park is listed as having 6 different fields, which isn’t enough to hold a State Tournament.
At Anderson Snow there are two Tee Ball fields, two 200-foot fields, a 275-foot field, and a 300-foot softball field. While this is useable for a league, the ability to host a multiple team tournament isn’t their because of the lack of available fields and wait times in-between games would be something impossible to overcome.
The ability to host a State Dixie Tournament would do wonders in terms of revenue for the county, as families would accompany their children, eating at local businesses and staying in hotels. The money brought in would help small businesses stay afloat and help the county thrive.
Currently, other counties are winning bids for these state-run tournaments and seeing their businesses thrive, while Hernando County is being left in the dust.
The implications of a softball complex would also raise revenue among adults. Currently, Tom Varn Park in Brooksville sports the only Co-ed and Women Softball leagues, and while Tom Varn, Veteran’s Park and Anderson Snow offer men’s recreational softball, neither complex is fit to hold sanctioned Softball Tournaments. Veterans and Anderson Snow each have one softball field available while Tom Varn sports two, which is less than the required four available to host a sanctioned tournament.
Tournaments are a fantastic way for the county to earn revenue, as the county would be entitled to fees for renting the fields, as well as a percentage of the overall fees collected.
Bill Bulchalski who helps run the Spring Hill Men’s League, which takes place at Anderson Snow and Veterans Park feels that a complex would help grow the league, providing opportunities for men and women to not have to travel as far to play their respect leagues or coed. It would also provide additional nights to play on with multiple leagues going at once.
Currently, there are 31 teams in the A through D divisions that play in Spring Hill. Adding additional fields would help the league facilitate a women’s league capable of eight or more teams as well as a church and co-ed league each sporting eight plus teams.
The complex would also allow recreational kickball leagues to form, as well as potential Baseball leagues.
While Hernando County is doing wonderful things for residents, it seems like a no-brainer was missed in the opportunity to build a complex for their residents, giving them something to do.
The 2013 Census had Hernando County at 52% female, and having one women’s league available for the county seems like a complete oversight. With projections stating Hernando County will house over 200,000 residents with an average age of 48 by 2020, it seems that a complex to provide them with activities is a win-win.
“I would absolutely love it if the county had a softball complex, a nice complex.” Patti Cloud, who plays Co-ed and Women’s League at Tom Varn, said. “I’ve traveled to a lot of places playing ball and the city’s fields here are junk, an embarrassment. Our senior league is looking to have tournaments in this area but I wouldn’t dream of suggesting our complex.”
Other players from the league shared Cloud’s disgust for the current condition of the field, but all, including Cloud, said that a complex would do wonders for the county.
Cloud, who ran the women’s league in the past, also felt the county parks department has gotten away from their state slogan “It starts in the parks”, as she has seen a dip in the women’s league going from 8-12 teams down to a minuscule four.
One potential solution could be combining Anderson Snow and Veterans Park, if commissioners didn’t see building one as a good idea.
Anderson Snow has an amazing soccer complex that hosts tournaments already, and if they were to restructure the baseball and softball fields, it could become an all-in-one facility.
Another option could be removing the football fields at Veterans Park and moving them to Anderson Snow to replace the baseball fields there, allowing Veterans to serve as the baseball/softball complex while Anderson Snow becomes Hernando County’s football and soccer hub.
No matter how you slice it up, complexes in surrounding counties already exist. If none are developed in Hernando, they can start to lose money to outside counties, continuing a trend of missed opportunities, and suffering local businesses.
According to the Florida Recreation and Parks Association, “It Starts in Parks”, and it is time for Hernando County to get on board.