Area children will soon have more opportunities to play Little League baseball as the city is set to build two more baseball fields at Martin Luther Jr. Sports Center in southwest Arlington.
As part of a bond package passed by voters in 2008, the city plans to spend $1.38 million to add two ballfields to the sports center’s existing six fields. To accommodate parents and fans at the games, the city also plans to add nearly 200 more lighted parking spaces.
The City Council approved a bid on the construction work last week, and Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Matt Young said the city is ready to “turn dirt.” Fort Worth-based Reeder General Contractors submitted the winning bid and will have 180 days to finish the work, according to a city staff report.
Young said the plans to build more fields and parking has been part of the park’s master plan since 1999. Arlington Southwest Little League plays at MLK, and as its registration has grown exponentially in recent years, it needs more space.
The league has grown from 245 players in 2009 to the 1,200 players it had in the spring, ranking it among the top 10 Little Leagues in the world in overall registration.
“The center has been at capacity for the last two years,” said Young.
Brett Smith, Southwest Arlington Little League president, said he is glad to see the city moving forward with the park’s master plan, which was updated in 2012.
“There is currently not enough parking at MLK to accommodate the flow of people — either during the weeknight games or on the weekends,” he said. “We have had to limit registration because we simply ran out of field space.”
Smith also said that because there are currently too few parking spaces, people have been parking in open spaces throughout the center.
Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, who represents southwest Arlington, said she had heard from a few parents about how crowded the park has been on game days.
“I’m delighted we’re going to be able to expand out there,” she said. “What a great thing to support that vibrancy of youth in our city.”