This is a diagram of what the new bathroom and concession facilities will look at the new pod of fields. Check the JT for a followup story about UCJRD. (Photo submitted)
Despite COVID-19, the Union County Joint Recreation District has been ready and willing to support baseball and softball in central Ohio.
Teams are taking notice.
In 2019 the joint recreation district added two new turf fields and a new pod of four fields.
COVID-19 then shut down sports across the state in 2020.
Despite the shut down the district turfed the remaining two fields in the original pod of four fields and added lights to two of the four turfed fields. The move has been paying off.
“There is no question the artificial turf fields have attracted more interest in this facility and it has to do with the fact that they are premier playing surfaces,” said Dave Raymond, UCJRD board member. “Your chances to be able to play even in bad weather are pretty high. That is tremendous when you are coming from all over the state to play.”
In 2020 the UCJRD hosted 472 games, not including practice time. Raymond believes that with the shut down due to the pandemic, schools that were once what some teams called home were no longer available. Raymond and the UCJRD gave them a new place to play.
“All of the summer programs that planned on using school fields had to find a place to play,” he said. “So the usage from last year was like 25% coming from outside of Union County because of restrictions throughout the state.”
Raymond said this helps everyone using the UCJRD.
Locally, the Mitts, Heart of Ohio Softball and the Marysville Junior Baseball and Softball Association all call joint recreation their home.
Because they are in-county users of the facility, those teams gets first crack at scheduling and pay a reduced rate to use the fields.
With the addition of turf and lights, Raymond said he has been seeing a big increase from several men’s slow pitch organizations, Premier and One Nation, and other boys baseball organizations.
“I’ve got emails in my phone right now of people wanting to use the turf fields,” he said.
Teams outside of Union County have to pay a premium fee to use UCJRD, which has helped the district match revenue it made in 2019 before COVID hit.
“The 2020 income from the users was equal to 2019, even with COVID,” Raymond said. “Part of that had to do with the fact that it’s more expensive for people outside Union County to use the facility, so we do expect or revenue for 2021 to be higher.”
This increase in revenue has lead to Raymond and his crew to continue to increase the facility. He has hired a contractor to finish the fencing around the four turfed fields and add a new concessions and bathroom facility at the new pod of fields.
The new project is scheduled to go out for bid after July 4 for an anticipated build start time of early August.
Completion is expected around the beginning of October, according to Raymond. The new addition was something UCJRD officials have been planning since they built the new pod.
“We got all the utilities in last year when we built the new pod, anticipating this build,” Raymond said.
With this build nearly in the books, Raymond has already looked into what the organization can provide in the future. The goal is to get the remaining turf fields lighting and work on the parking.
“This parking lot is a quarter-mile long and it is not enough,” Raymond said. “We want to line the parking lot and make defined parking spots which we hope will increase the efficiency of parking so we can get more cars in here.”
All of this is in preparation for what Raymond calls a “dynamite year” coming in 2022 when the word is out on what UCJRD has to offer.