WARNER ROBINS — Before daylight Monday, Morgan Law and Jay Flesher were in Law’s garage building a huge sandbox.
Not for the neighborhood children to play in, but as another demonstration of going the extra mile to welcome Little League to the city.
Law is executive director of the Houston County Development Authority, and Flesher is owner of Hybrid Corp., which deals with sports marketing and recreational facilities construction.
With a forecast calling for an 80 percent chance of showers, possibly severe, they were determined not to allow Monday afternoon’s groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Little League Southeastern Region Headquarters and tournament stadium to be rained out.
Law arranged to use the auditorium at Middle Georgia Technical College, complete with the sandbox filled with black dirt and decorated with red and gold flowers and a home plate for politicians and Little League International officials to use in scooping the ceremonial golden shovels of earth.
The rain held off — maybe that was a good omen for future tournaments played at the stadium — but the weather threat did keep Gov. Sonny Perdue from attending.
But that didn’t dampen the festive atmosphere as more than 100 officials, youth softball and baseball players and Warner Robins American Little League volunteers celebrated Little League International’s decision to relocate to Warner Robins.
“We had offers from several other communities that were very attractive, as impressive in land and facilities as here,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League International. “But the difference was the people and enthusiasm. When we visited here, everyone made us feel as if we were the most important people in the United States.”
Keener singled out Gov. Perdue and Mike Long, teammates on a 1959 Warner Robins American Little League all-star team, for their enthusiastic support of the project.
He presented Long with framed copies of the roster affidavits listing their names that were submitted to Little League headquarters by the Warner Robins league officials back in 1959.
And Long, attorney for the Houston County Development Authority and the Houston County Board of Commissioners, spread the credit to Law, Flesher, former Houston County Commissioner Larry Snellgrove, Warner Robins American Little League President Ken Hathaway, and other elected and appointed officials for their teamwork in bringing Little League to the area.
Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders thanked Little League for choosing Warner Robins and pledged that everyone involved will continue to work to make it the best facility in the country.
Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker said the stadium will be a tribute to all those who have worked with the area’s young people through the years and those who will continue to serve their community in the years to come.
The $5.5 million facility will include a tournament stadium and administration building that will be built on Snellgrove Drive between Cohen Walker Drive and Hunt Road a bit south of Ga. 96. That is adjacent to the recreation complex now used by Warner Robins American Little League.
Clearing of the 26 acres donated by the county began in March. Keener and Flesher said design work is almost complete, and construction bids are coming in.
“If everything goes to plan, we hope to award the bid in the next three weeks,” Keener said.
Construction of the administration building is scheduled to begin in June with completion by the end of the year. Stadium site work should begin later this month, and the field should be completed by April 15, 2010.
“There will still be some more work to do on the stadium after that, but hopefully we’ll have it ready for the girls’ region softball tournament late that June. And it definitely will be ready for the boys’ Little League tournament in August 2010,” Flesher said.
Keener said the facility will not be used only for region tournaments. It will also be available for the local league to use, plus for community events such as concerts.
The region staff is expected to move to Warner Robins in July and use loaned office space provided by Flint Energies until its new building is complete.
To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.