BY MELANIE BUCK –
Park Director Nathan Fowler is excited about what 2015 will bring to Aubrey Tapley Park in Mena. Being in the position of director for only a few months, Fowler has already mapped out the way for a successful year.
The park has baseball and softball fields, as well as soccer fields. “We are working on the baseball and softball fields, repositioning bases and home plate to match up correctly with the foul pole lines so we can chalk straight lines from the batters boxes,” said Fowler.
Last year the youth played Dixie baseball and ASA softball, the Mena city leagues had around 200-300 youth. There were no sanctioned tournaments and that’s something that Fowler wishes to change. “This year, I’m going to try to offer Dixie Tournaments, ASA Tournaments and USSSA Tournaments in baseball and softball. All of these sanctions have different rules and regulations; different pitching lengths, different base lengths, etc. We’ve been working on putting more bases on the fields so that we can offer tournaments and sanctions so that more kids can play in different leagues,” explained Fowler.
This will not only give Mena’s youth more options, it should also bring in teams from the surrounding communities, and from across the state. Fowler also hopes it draws some of the ‘traveling teams’ which will bring in more revenue for local businesses. “Then we’ll have tourneys all throughout the year they can play,” Fowler said.
Right now, the park is pretty much set up for youth. “Anytime you can get kids out and let them be free and physically active and interact socially it’s the right direction.” He also stated that there’s been a lot of community involvement. “I’ve gotten excellent support from the Mena A & P Commission. The Mayor and all the administration at City Hall have 100 percent backed everything I do.”
“I want to see the park grow and the community to be more involved in the park. I want to be able to offer more things for not just the youth of the community but for older kids also.” One of his main priorities is to build adult baseball/softball fields in the park. That would allow tournaments for older kids and adults. “Arkansas Tourism has a grant that we apply for, the cycle starts again next August. With the help of City Hall, I can go to the Tourism board and give a proposal of what we want to do. Being able to receive the grant has a lot to do with when we are able to get those projects going,” Fowler explained.
Figuring in dirt work, electrical work, more buildings, irrigation, etc., the financial costs of such a project are extremely expensive. He explained the City is saving money for these things but it can only be done with the help of grants. “All of the things at the park have been done through this particular grant,” he added.
“I’m going to work a lot more with the soccer board this coming year. I’ve talked to the Association President Josh Risman. I’m out there every single day so I’m going to be able to help them accomplish things that they would like to see done out there, on the fields or within the organization itself. They have done a great job with organizing everything. They have 300-400 kids ranging from 3 to 15 in the spring leagues and they also have a fall league.”
“These leagues are very important, a lot of kids benefit from it. There’s a lot of organizing to be done, a lot of things in motion but I’m not intimidated at all. It may take extra work and some long days but as long as you have that set organization, it’s going to run smoothly.”