Tri-C ballfields need to be relocated

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners have expressed willingness to assist with relocation of the Tri-C ballfields in preparation of a possible ethane cracker plant going into the former SABIC property.

But county officials said no decisions have been made at this time.

Commissioner Blair Couch said when he was president of the commission, Cam Huffman, with the Wood County Development Authority and Area Roundtable requested a letter to demonstrate the commission’s willingness to assist with the relocation of the baseball, soccer and football fields in the event the Cracker Plant decided to locate here.

The SABIC property is located in the industrial area of Washington Bottom, it is outside the corporate limits of any municipality. There are a number of baseball, football and soccer fields located there as part of a private youth sports complex.

“There are a lot of boxes that need to be checked, the county commission was approached during the initial phase of the project and we needed to make a commitment at that time that we would be willing to take a stand and help the Tri-C sports find a new location, and that might involve a financial commitment,” Couch said.

“We were asked to sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement so we could not publicly discuss anything relating to the cracker plant, that’s why it hasn’t been put on the agenda for discussion at a public meeting at this point. There was some discussion among the commissioners that occurred after we were approached by Cam. He told us we needed to guarantee we would help with the fields, so we provided that letter,” Couch said.

In a letter dated Jan. 18, 2012, Couch stated: “We understand that there may be various issues associated with maximizing the potential of our site, specifically associated with the need to relocate the soccer and ballfields located on the SABIC property adjacent to their plant. We are prepared to negotiate a positive resolution to this and other issues that might be within our purview.” No financial commitment was mentioned specifically in the letter.

Couch said it’s his understanding the football fields already had plans to relocate to Mineral Wells.

He said there are 10 baseball fields, but not all were used, six soccer fields and the football had been addressed already.

The Tri-C sports association is a private group, not affiliated with the recreation commission or school system.

“Many years ago a group of generous Washington Bottom residents volunteered a lot of labor and raised funds to build that complex, and they were aware industry down there might need the land someday,” Couch said.

Couch said discussions continue and the commissioners need to schedule a meeting with Tri-C officials to discuss the matter further.

“But we needed to make the commitment when the project came up, the company was looking at a number of other locations, outside the area and outside the state. I was asked by the roundtable and state development authority to ensure that any disruption of youth sports would be handled,” he said.

“The next steps will be public since the announcement has been made. But at the time they needed the assurance of a governmental agency that would be helpful in the negotiations with the plant. I’m sure other groups currently offering youth sports in the area will be willing to be useful in this project. We are excited about the Cracker Plant, and we support economic development and, as a group, want to do everything we can to make this project a reality,” Couch said.