City explores major McCrary Park renovations

Ballpark overhaul includes several stages, fundraising needs

ASHEBORO — The Asheboro City Council is looking for a collaborative project involving public and private money for a major renovation of McCrary Park.

The city-owned baseball facility attracts thousands of visitors a year and a facelift is in order, council members have said.

“We see this investment as a true form of economic development,” mayor David Smith said. “Tournaments and ball games at McCrary Park consistently bring people to Asheboro businesses throughout the spring and summer. These improvements will further strength our partnership with the American Legion baseball program, Copperheads baseball and Asheboro City Schools. Renovations to McCrary Park are overdue.”

The ticket booth at McCrary Ballpark will be getting a face lift in 2022 in Asheboro, NC on July 26th, 2021. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

The price tag might grow to $10 million. City officials announced that a fundraising element – with details still to come – will be involved.

A special city council meeting was held last week to review and discuss concepts for renovating and enhancing the park. Improvements for spectator and player safety and comfort are at the heart of the proposal.

“It’s a complete remake of the park,” said Ronnie Pugh, owner of the Asheboro Copperheads, a collegiate summer league team. “It’s quite a bit overdue. It’s just time. … It’s pretty exciting. A pretty big project.”

Pugh said there are community groups who’ve indicated they will help support the project.

Proposed plans for the baseball facility include artificial turf for the outfield (now it’s only on the infield), new dugouts, a new grandstand, improved parking and a plaza. The project also would include many elements to enhance the fan experience, including concession areas and restrooms.

Local officials pushing for the project want to make sure the area continues to attract the baseball events that have been part of Asheboro’s sports scene. Games have been played at the facility since 1948.

“If we want to keep hosting these tournaments, to do all that, this has to be upgraded,” Pugh said.

Pugh also is involved on the American Legion level. He’s in his 17th season as head coach of Post 45.

McCrary Park is home to the Copperheads, three teams on the American Legion level and Asheboro High School. Plus, there’s a fall high school baseball league that uses the field along with travel ball teams. In the past, National Junior College Athletic Association regionals have been held there as well.

“It’s such a great facility and great location,” said Dennis Garcia, who has been involved on the local baseball scene for a few decades and now is the general manager of the Copperheads.

Next month, an American Legion regional tournament will be contested at the ballpark, with eight teams participating from as far away as New York. McCrary Park is a regular venue for the regional tournaments that bring in out-of-state visitors.

Ideally, the renovations would be done in phases, with some parts required to be done during the offseason.

When artificial turf was installed on the infield for the Asheboro field, it was a relatively unheard of for the facility used almost exclusively for amateur events. Now many other facilities have gone that route.

Yet that put Asheboro on the map in terms of an ideal destination to contest tournaments.

“That turf has saved so many games,” Garcia said of avoiding weather-related cancellations.

At last week’s special presentation, an array of concepts and designs were shown. Those included photographs and descriptions of ballparks from various communities in the region – such as Greensboro, High Point and Burlington – where certain ideas might work to be included in the McCrary Park redesign.

Among the objectives in a statement from the city: “This is a historic ballpark and we need to maintain its historic feel. We also want to look fresh, new, exciting, and fun. … We need to provide for a phased and cost-effective solution.”

 

 

By Bob Sutton

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