We're glad the Sebring City Council wants to partner on upgrading Max Long Recreational Complex baseball fields. It's a project that's way overdue and the benefits will serve thousands of children and adults over the years.
Andrew Bible, representing Youth Baseball of Sebring, asked to partner with the city to find money to replace and move the concrete bleachers, the dugouts, lighting and provide protection to spectators from foul balls flying from the four fields. These all are important improvements that are needed.
All kinds of items are found in the concrete-block dugouts, including drug paraphernalia, empty alcohol containers and other things that shouldn't be where the community's children spend hours playing baseball.
The old concrete bleachers would be removed and replaced by aluminum bleachers, and then moved to where the old dugouts are located. This would give spectators a much better vantage point.
One of the biggest safety issues proposed involves installing netting over parts of the spectator area to block foul balls from beaning people throughout the complex. An infant was hit in the face by a foul ball several years ago and many other people have been hit as well.
Bible wants the city to help the baseball league to approach the Highlands County Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee (RPAC) to help with funding these improvements. To pay for the $173,100 in improvements, Bible proposed youth baseball pay $40,100; $66,500 from the city and $66,500 from RPAC.
Council members doubted whether RPAC money could be attained, but supported the overall idea of improvements. Councilman John Clark suggested a one-third split and the council finally voted to fund an amount up to $58,000.
This isn't quite what Bible proposed, but it's a start. With youth baseball's contribution that would almost cover the $100,000 cost required to replace the dugouts on all four fields, which should be the top priority.
We support all of these changes at Max Long because they are needed. And probably no facility in Sebring, or Highlands County for that matter, serves so many people. Between all the leagues that play throughout the year, the travel teams and tournaments held there, Max Long is a great resource. Now it's time to upgrade.