Mayor, community seek renewed discussion on lacking sports facilities
Tim and Stephanie Peterson have outgrown their 3rd Street building.
The pair own Forgotten Coast Athletics, a gymnastics, tumbling and cheerleading gym in downtown Port St. Joe. They first purchased their location four years ago. Now, they say, there just isn’t enough space in their current building to accommodate the growth of their business.
So, they brought a proposition to the Feb. 15 Port St. Joe city commission meeting.
“We sent out an email yesterday. I hope you all got a chance to read it, but we sent it to all of the board members just asking if there would be any interest in opening a dialogue into selling some land out in the Field of Dreams area,” said Tim Peterson.
“We’re now in our fourth season. We’ve got over 100 youth in one program or another at our gym, whether it’s one of the rec classes, or the competition classes or the after school care. And you know, we see as the community continues to grow, the demand is just increasing.”
The land in question sits a little outside of town, just off of Highway 98 near Gulf Coast State College. It was given to the city by the St. Joe Company more than a decade ago as part of a plan to build an additional recreational facility.
As Mayor Rex Buzzett would tell the couple, it is not the city’s property to sell.
But Buzzett had an idea: use the sentiments expressed by the Petersons – the city’s growth and lacking recreational facilities – to launch a grassroots effort aimed at reigniting discussions about building a recreational facility on the lot.
“We’ve had plans for the Field of Dreams for well over 10 years,” he said to the couple. “There’s no reason in my mind that if we’re going to have this recreational facility, we couldn’t have a gymnastics facility as part of it.”
In 2009, the city, determining that they were outgrowing their existing baseball and softball fields, drafted plans for a sprawling recreational facility that they planned to build with assistance from the county and the Tourism Development Council, which they named the Field of Dreams.
They got as far as getting the land set aside. But, ultimately, they were unable to get all of the parties to work together to secure enough funding to make it happen.
“Plans got laid. Plans got engineered and ready to go, and then no one could find the money,” Buzzett told the Star.
The project got reignited a few years later, Buzzett said, but ended when the city and the county could not come to an agreement over whether to build the new facility or expand the existing one off of 10th Street.
“When Tim Peterson came to that meeting on Tuesday,” Buzzett said, “As well as (City Manager) Jim Anderson telling me that there are 200 kids signed up for Dixie Baseball this year, and they don’t have enough fields to even practice on on a routine basis, I thought ‘Wow, what an opportunity.’”
“We can all put this thing back on the table, and maybe we can get it done.”
In the city meeting, the mayor suggested that information be distributed to local baseball coaches and that, if there’s enough interest, a workshop be hosted at the Field of Dreams property.
Commissioner Scott Hoffman echoed the mayor’s sentiments, stressing that county involvement would be a necessary component to getting the ball rolling. Buzzett and Hoffman encouraged the Petersons and any other interested parties to reach out to the county government as well to gauge their interest in the project.
“I played ball on those fields over on 10th Street when I was young,” Buzzett said. “They’ve been fantastic for the city… but we’ve grown past that, so I’m ready to see something new and better for the kids.”