City should pursue plan for new field

Recreation in Steubenville could soon get a significant boost if a city resident has his way.

Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board learned Wednesday night that Thom Way and his nonprofit, the Urban Frontier Organization, are willing to construct a ballfield that will be inclusive for people of all ages and abilities.

Best of all, if Way is able to make good on his proposal, the addition to the Steubenville’s recreation portfolio would come at no cost to city residents.

It’s a proposal that is certainly worthy of serious consideration.

According to Way, the cost of converting the North End Field into the all-inclusive facility would come in at about $1.6 million, a number that could increase to $2.8 million if his organization is able to acquire an old manufacturing site that sits next to the field. Way told members of the recreation board the Urban Frontier group already has partnerships and grants lined up that will cover many of the expenses.

And, while the city would maintain ownership of the field, Way and his organization would be responsible for the upkeep and operations.

It all sounds, as Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf explained, like it’s a “great opportunity that doesn’t come along very often.”

According to numbers provided by Way, the need for such a facility in our area is great. There are more than 15,000 people in the region who have some sort of intellectual or developmental disability. The families of those who are affected currently have to travel to Wheeling or Moon Township to have access to similar Miracle League facilities.

While there are many positive things about the project, an issue that will need to be addressed is that conversion of the field, which sits near the intersection of Seventh Street and University Boulevard, would eliminate a site that has been used from time to time by recreational softball and baseball teams. That’s something city officials will need to consider before giving the project a go-ahead, but it’s a concern we’re certain can be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, especially since Steubenville has been looking for ways to reduce the number of parks in its system.

The project is in line with the mission statement of the Urban Frontier Organization. According to its Website, the group looks to bring people together to design, build and promote sustainable communities that allow people to realize their greatest potential.

Way’s proposed field would certainly do that and, as Fetherolf added, the project offers an opportunity for inclusiveness, and would make the site a location that people from all across the region would come to town to use.

It’s a plan Steubenville needs to pursue.