Fairburn considers regional baseball complex


The Fairburn City Council Monday night adopted a resolution for a proposal that, if approved by the board in the coming weeks, will lead to the development of a sports complex expected to draw baseball and softball teams and tournaments from across metro Atlanta with a resulting initial annual economic impact of $3.5-4.5 million.

The council voted to support the move to have Peachtree City-based Georgia Academy move forward with the effort that could result in the issuance of $14 million in revenue bonds by the Fairburn Development Authority and the construction of the Spence Road Championship Fields complex, the purchase of Duncan Park from Fulton County and the construction of fields at Duncan Park.

Georgia Academy partner and Coweta County resident Bill Killmeier said the organization is the operational entity of the proposed Championship Fields complex. If approved by the Fairburn City Council the complex to be located on Spence Road (Ga. Highway 92) south of Oakley Industrial Boulevard will be outfitted initially with an old-time Signature Field ball field and bleachers, a second tournament field with bleachers, concessions and a 20,000 square-foot indoor training facility that will also house a pro shop and is expected to include Georgia Academy’s corporate offices. Killmeier said the future expansion of the Spence Road site is expected to see the additional of three more ball fields.

Under the proposed agreement, Championship Fields will be responsible for $11.6 million in bond payments for construction of the Spence Road facility and for the three new fields at Duncan Park. Bond money would also provide $2.4 million for the city’s purchase of the 140-acre Duncan Park on Rivertown Road.

Ripken Baseball consultant Dan Taylor told council members that projections showed that approximately 70,000 people are expected to use the Championship Fields complex annually, with a majority of those coming from out of town. That type of draw will have a significant impact for local motels, restaurants and other businesses, he said, adding that expected crowds will likely fill 400 motel rooms during 35 weekends per year, thereby exceeding Fairburn’s current capacity.

Taylor said the initial annual economic impact is estimated to range between $3.5-4.5 million. In the future it is conceivable to see an annual multi-million dollar impact in double digits, he said.

Taylor said the local community and local ball players will also benefit from the project. Aside from the purchase of Duncan Park by the city with a portion of the revenue bond, that site will see the construction of three ball fields.

“We will make this available to everyone in the community, one way or another,” Taylor said of the overall project.

Killmeier said other fields are anticipated to be added at Duncan Park in the future.

Killmeier said Georgia Academy is in talks with Bruster’s, Roly Poly and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs about serving the Championship Fields complex on Hwy. 92.

Also at the meeting, council members during the public comments portion of the meeting heard from a number of people supporting the Championship Fields proposal. One of those was Bobby Gatlin from Whitewater High School in Fayette County.

“The Georgia Academy doesn’t just teach baseball. They teach life,” Gatlin said of the organization. “They do a tremendous job.”

The Fairburn City Council is expected to hear a final presentation and take a vote on the details of the project proposal in approximately one month.

Georgia Academy is directed by longtime coach Pete Berrios and Ryan Christenson and is staffed by former major league players and coaches. Also affiliated with Georgia Academy are three-time National Girl’s Softball coach Ernie Yarbrough, Fletcher Baseball president Scott Fletcher and long-time Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

Georgia Academy partners include Killmeier, Ron Marcotte, Joe Haitte and Bill Wiley.