Macon County Chronicle

'Take Me Out to the Ballgame; Take Me Out to the Fair'

The Macon Soccer League’s goal is clear, they desire the county’s support in getting a permanent home for the 400 young citizens, ages three through 18, that participate in the sport.  Over the past few weeks, concerns have surfaced about the property they currently use at the Macon County Fair Grounds.

The lyrics of Jack Norworth’s classic 1908 song come to mind, “Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the fair…”

They fit nicely together, well, at least in the song.

At the county commissioner’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, held July 6, Soccer’s League President Barry King appeared and requested the county commissioners grant permission to oversee and maintain the soccer field at the fairgrounds. He felt the Fair Board was opposed to erecting permanent fixtures on county fairgrounds.  King reported mounting expenses, including $1200 for portable toilets, and wished to provide bathrooms for children and the many that attend the two-season sport.

Several commissioners felt it best for the league to address the Fair Board on July 9th, with the situation, and they did as requested.  

When commissioners reconvened at the July 20th Legislative Body meeting, Mayor Linville asked for a report from three Commissioners, Jeff Hughes, Helen Hesson, and Jerry Ray, who also serve on the Fair Board.

Commissioners reported Fair Board President Ray Goad told the Soccer League that they need to find a permanent place.  “The long term plan if the fair board expands, is they’re going that way and the money that they spend would be gone,” said Commissioner Jeff Hughes.

Commissioners also reported they were told to look at the abandoned race track at the back of the fairgrounds, some speaking felt “that would be a lot of work” and might be an inadequate size. Mayor Linville inquired of the dual members if there is a long-term plan of the Fair Board. “Three years? Five years?” he asked.

Commissioner Grant Malo voiced certain reservations about giving total authority to Barry King, who initially brought the request, saying “Once he gets his hands on something, it never works out,” later advising fellow commissioners, “If you give him total control, you’ll have total chaos.”

“Can’t there be a compromise?” asked Mayor Linville.

Commissioner McDuffee emphasized the size of the growth of soccer and the many that participate and stressed, “You would have to have a Hardees out there and give away food to get that many people out there,” indicating the sport was enormous for the community.

Commissioner Ralph Doss offered, “I don’t think the commissioners need to interfere with the Fair Board.”

Commissioner Annette Looper made a motion, which failed, to allow the Soccer League to remain where they are, and to build adequate bathroom facilities.  The motion was seconded by Commissioner Scott Gammons.  Voting in favor were Ronnie McDuffee and Junior Spears.  Opposed to the motion were: Commissioners Billy Bransford, David Crowder, Vernon Biggs, Jeff Hughes, Billy West, Jerry Ray, Larry Tucker, Mike East, Ralph Doss, Tony Boles, Helen Hesson, Grant Malo, Benton Bartley and Rosetta Driver.

“I would suggest you to meet again with the Fair Board and work with these parents,” offered Mayor Linville.

Several from the Soccer League Board attended the meeting of the Fair Board last Thursday night, July 23rd.

In addition to business related to the upcoming fair, discussion was held about the future of the Soccer League and its home.

David Denny, Director of Coaches for the league, told those gathered “We’re here to support the league and thought it would be a good idea to have someone here to answer any questions,” and noted, “We are not seeking an audience.”

Fair Board President Ray Goad asked if anyone else had anything on that line, “The floor is yours.”

Soccer League parent and coach Misty Gammons asked, “Are the soccer kids going to be able to play here?
“As far as we are concerned, it’s not any different than last year,” replied Goad. Gammons inquired about a contract and if it included bathrooms or porta-potties.  Goad, replied, “No, it didn’t include anything about Porta-Potties,” then added, “We have just got to protect the ground, at one time we didn’t have room to park.”

Discussed then was the growth of the league, and that in ten years the size of the current field might be inadequate.

"Come and work with us,” Commissioner Jerry Ray requested of the Soccer League representatives attending.  

Denney stressed they weren’t sitting idle, instead trying to be responsible by learning who to go to and what steps to take.

Commissioner Benton Bartley advised,  “As commissioners, we are trying to serve the people, to keep the taxes low and that we don’t need to take away from the Fair Board. He offered that improvements such as leveling the land would only help the Fair Board.  “Our consensus is, let them play here while we’re looking.”

“We realize we’re just caretakers,” Goad remarked, and then invited anyone that would like to come out and help them work, to do so, saying he was proud of how it has grown.

Macon County Soccer League’s Bryan Morgan then emphasized that the league can help us grow as a community, but just like a plant, it needed fertilizing.

“That’s the reason you need to be looking,” said Goad.  He offered that the fair board initially got their plan together and went to the County Commission and made a proposal and “They did it 100%.”

After the close of the soccer discussion, Goad talked with attendees about finalizing the upcoming 2009 fair, named improvements that have been made to buildings and grounds, plans for pouring a sidewalk to the little school house, and offered that his brother would look at the recently storm damaged bleachers to evaluate potential repair cost, that they might possibly end up with another set of bleachers for the other side of the fair arena.