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MONDAY, JULY 23, 2007
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Athens Park and Recreation director Ben Wiley has seen events such as the Dixie Boys Baseball North Division 13-year-old state tournament come to the Athens Sportsplex.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Athens Park and Recreation director Ben Wiley has seen events such as the Dixie Boys Baseball North Division 13-year-old state tournament come to the Athens Sportsplex.

A slice of sports in Athens
Staff keeps Athens Sportsplex up to speed for events such as Dixie Boys tournament

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

ATHENS — Throughout the year, Athens Park and Recreation director Ben Wiley and his staff spend many hours at the ball park. And it’s not because they’re watching family members play ball.

Instead, Wiley and other staff members are giving many of the fields last-minute touches before games are played.

“I can’t even begin to say how many hours we put in out here,” Wiley said. “We spend hours upon hours even in the off-season getting things ready for fall ball.”

The Park and Recreation Department oversees eight baseball fields and five soccer pitches at the Athens Sportsplex, as well as seven softball fields behind Cowart Elementary. With the drought Alabama endured last month, Wiley said it was tough trying to keep them in good shape.

“We hardly got any rain in May and June and then Friday it rained so much that water was standing on the field,” Wiley said. “I have to give the field crew credit. They did an excellent job getting the fields in playing condition for Friday night’s game.”

Athens currently is hosting the Dixie Boys Baseball North Division 13-year-old state tournament. The event began Friday and concludes Tuesday.

“We have been blessed with the way Athens has been growing,” Wiley said. “Right now, we’re working on trying to develop relationships with local vendors and hotels. In 2009 or 2010, the Dixie Youth World Series will be up for bid, and we would love to be able to get it. We just have to keep maintaining things and maintaining what we have.”

Not only does the Park and Recreation Department maintain the ball fields, but the staff help keep the city’s disc golf course in shape as well.

Last month, 45 participants from around the South came to Athens for a professional disc golf tournament.

Wiley termed the event a success.

“I was very impressed with the way it turned out,” Wiley said. “Disc golf has really taken off, and the locals have helped getting the tournaments to come to town. The best part is that it is something everyone can play.”

Wiley said that during the next couple of years, the Park and Recreation Department has plans of improving the facilities at the Athens Sportsplex.

“We plan on expanding four or five fields as well as fix some of the fences,” Wiley said. “We’re wanting to make adjustments so that we can accommodate the adult softball league.”

He added that he has received positive feedback to these plans from the Athens city government.

“When you have that kind of support, it makes things easier,” he said.

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