First-of-its-Kind Challenger Division Field Unveiled
Located in suburban Atlanta, the Field of Hope, with its cushioned synthetic turf and flat, smooth playing surface cost $750,000 to build, and was the vision of Peachtree City Little League volunteer, Nick Harris.
The Field of Hope project took four years to complete, and accommodates players with a variety of disabilities, including those with wheelchairs. The field’s turf is green with tan base paths and bright white bases. The dugouts are open, except for a fence that protects players, while the entryway on to the field, and spectator seating are made of concrete for easy access.
“This facility is the first one built with the needs of Challenger Division players in mind and may act as a blueprint for other Challenger leagues,” said James Ferguson, director of the Challenger Division at Little League International. “The Field of Hope provides disabled children the opportunity to participate, and allows them to enjoy the benefits of the Little League program without the common struggles associated with typical baseball fields.”
Mr. Harris, whose son Ethan has played Challenger Division for 10 years, has been the project’s chief proponent and is chairman of the Field of Hope board of directors. Orchestrating the original donation of $2,500 from the Peachtree City Little League and other community and corporate contributors, Mr. Harris was also instrumental in securing the parcel of land that became the “Field of Hope” for the local league’s 56 players.
Children with disabilities have been able to play in Little League’s Challenger Division on regular fields since 1989. To date, there are more than 26,000 players on 1,700 Challenger Divisions teams worldwide.
Linda North is the district administrator for Georgia’s fourth district, while Mr. Harris is the district’s coordinator for the Challenger Division. In western Georgia there are approximately 30,000 mentally or physically-disabled children living within driving distance of the Field of Hope, and who would be eligible to play in the Little League program. Currently, there are lest than 30 teams and 400 players (ages 5-18) participating in Georgia’s Challenger Division.
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.