The thought of her special-needs daughter getting to participate in sports and outdoor activities has Elizabeth McCravy “absolutely thrilled.”
By next summer, McCravy’s 8-year-old daughter, Rosemary, and other special-needs children in Columbia will be able to play on a new Miracle League baseball and softball field at Owens Field Park thanks to $1.3 million worth of renovations coming to the park.
Miracle League fields are made of a flat, rubberized turf designed to provide a safe surface for children with mental and physical disabilities to enjoy baseball and outdoor activities. Wheelchairs can easily roll over the surface, breaking down a barrier that typically keeps many disabled children from playing sports on regular grass fields.
“We are so excited,” McCravy said. “Rosemary does not always have a place in sports or in activities, in dance class. You know, she doesn’t always fit in with the typically developing children. And now, this offers an opportunity just for her, specially made for her, for children with special needs. ... She’ll be included.”
Owens Field Park, in the city’s Rosewood neighborhood, will host the first Miracle League field in Columbia, thanks to a financial partnership between the city, Richland County, the Ray Tanner Foundation and numerous other partners, including the Gills Creek Watershed Association.
“We don’t have enough Miracle fields,” said Tanner, the athletics director and former head baseball coach for the University of South Carolina. “There is no reason that young people, young girls and young boys with special needs and disabilities, can’t enjoy baseball or softball.”
Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis, the father of a special-needs son, said the field will be a “treasure” to people like his son “who normally would not use recreational facilities (and will) have an opportunity to do that now.”
Tanner and Davis, along with representatives from Columbia City Council and Richland County Council, broke ground Saturday on the future Miracle League field near the Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport and the historic Curtiss Wright Hangar.
The entire $1.3 million park renovation also will include a new “boundless playground,” which is also designed to accommodate children with disabilities, along with upgrades to existing ballfields, new walkways, a vehicular roundabout and stormwater improvements. Future phases of park renovations, which are not currently funded, could include a dog park and a rain garden.
Those who spoke at the groundbreaking lauded the park upgrades, especially the Miracle League field, as a benefit to the entire community.
“The Miracle field is going to bring the thrill of sport and a lot of smiles to both adults and children with special needs,” County Councilman Seth Rose said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.