In this episode of the South Georgia Insider Podcast, we have an all-star lineup with Valdosta Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority Executive Director George Page and Marketing and Public Relations Director Jessica Catlett.
The VLPRA has a mission to provide superior, affordable recreation services and facilities for residents of all ages in Valdosta and Lowndes County.
Page, who has served as executive director for ten years, discussed VLPRA expansion in the past decade.
"One of the things we looked at was our youth sports," Page says. "How can we get more kids involved? We looked at the idea of school-based sports."
Opening this year is the North Lowndes Soccer Complex in Hahira, which includes eight soccer fields allowing for soccer and other programs.
The Miracle League Complex at Freedom Park features a two-dimensional rubberized field with fully accessible dugouts, a concession stand, and restrooms. Close to a $7 million project, Page says the majority of funds were raised through donations to the Miracle League of Valdosta.
"It's actually the largest Miracle League [field] in the nation, Page says. "It's over two hundred feet long, and also an all rubberized surface, but it's also a multi-use field."
Catlett explains, "The Miracle Field is a two-dimensional rubberized field. On a standard baseball field, you have grass, clay, bases, you have things that raise up that make it difficult for a person with a disability to potentially play."
The VLPRA also added six new tennis courts at the Harry B. Anderson Tennis Center at McKey, bringing the total to 18 courts.
The facility growth has been part of a "build them, and they will come" philosophy to recruit more state, regional, and national tournaments.
"In the past several years, we have been successful in luring tournaments to our community," Page says. "One of the things I was tasked to do was go get as many as you can, whenever you can."
VLPRA averages 40 tournaments a year. "We have nice facilities, and they were just sitting on the weekend. Number one, our facilities are for our residents; they take priority over any tournament. We play our regular-season games during the week, and on weekends we bring tournaments to town."
Page says the tournament represents millions of dollars in economic impact as upward of 2,000 to 3,000 people stay overnight and eat and shop in local businesses.
With more than 40 parks located throughout Lowndes County, VLPRA provides added quality of life benefits for individuals and families.
Catlett says part of the VLPRA mission is to provide community events, including Movies in the Park and the annual 4th of July Fireworks celebration. This year, VLPRA added the Flag or Freedom on display from Memorial Day to July 4th. There are 50 flags, one of every state, that line a section of the road through Freedom Park as a temporary memorial.
Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.
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South Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting.