The Power of Public Spaces

I stood and watched as my oldest daughter and her 18U teammates competed against the best soccer players and teams from around the country in U.S. Youth Soccer’s National League.

College coaches lined the field looking for the next big thing. Nervous parents joined them, hoping their daughter fit the bill.

All of the other nine fields were similarly populated. It was an intense vibe.

As I watched (and fretted), my phone rang. Looking forward to the distraction, I answered. Randy Gaddo—our intrepid LBWA columnist and this year’s Fall Festival keynote speaker—was on the other end.

I walked away from the action, chatting with him about his ideas for the keynote.

Eventually, he asked me where I was. I told him. He said, “I know Wilson well. I used to live in Rocky Mount, just down the road. Amazing what their park department has done.”

Yes. Truly amazing.

The complex featured 10 impressively maintained turf soccer fields—all with lights, large scoreboards and a sound system controlled by one main location.

Off in the distance, I saw a similar complex for baseball and softball. And, between the two complexes was a maintenance garage housing an impressive fleet of tractors, mowers, utility vehicles and all the hand tools and material necessary for wrestling acres and acres of performance sports turf into submission.

Randy continued, “They’re a really good example of the power of public spaces.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I was surrounded by families from almost every state in the union plus Canada exuding a really great energy. There would of course be winners and losers. Some kids would secure a college deal. Some would have to keep working.

But, all were having a great time. New relationships were forming. Existing relationships were growing. Good things were happening.

None of this would have been possible if the community hadn’t decided to create, fund and maintain the space. Not a small initiative.

This month, we worked to dig up ideas and stories to help you improve your existing sports complexes or even build some new ones. Hopefully, you’ll find a few ideas worth implementing.

If you do, or you don’t, let us know what you think. We love mail.

Good luck to you and your department in the 2016.

I think it’s going to be an awesome year!

Till next month…

Rodney J. Auth


Insert: Fall Festival information.