With officials handling golden shovels and wearing red hard hats, the dirt was tossed on a dream Monday at Curtis Walker Park.
Groundbreaking was done on Braves Field, a handicap-friendly baseball park for special needs athletes. It will also include a playground area for special needs children.
The playing field will have a special service and dugouts that can accommodate wheelchairs.
Construction is expected to be completed by this fall with a special opening day to dedicate the field. A full season of play is expected to begin in the spring of 2015, with the program to be administered by the Conway Parks and Recreation Department.
The $1.2 million project will also include improvements to adjacent Peyton Hillis Field, home of Optimist Youth Football. That will include a new parking lot, scoreboard and concrete bleachers.
“The city has already built a new concession/bathroom building. Basically, it’s going to be like a brand new park when it is all done,” said David Grimes, who helped spearhead the project.
Grimes said $300,000 in cash, donations and in-kind service has been raised that will be applied to the city’s costs, He said organizers are still collecting donations to complete some extras on the field.
City funds that will be applied come from the Parks and Recreation Department’s allotment of Advertising & Promotion Funds and and Impact Funds.
Grand Slam sponsors, who donated $20,000 each, include American Management Corporation, Centennial Bank, Caldwell Toyota Scion, Conway Corporation, and the Kiwanis Club of Conway.
The Braves program, for special needs players of all ages, operated for several years in Conway in the backyard of Bill and Kim Patterson. Games were later played on various fields in Conway, none completely handicap-accessible.