Claude Walker Ball Park re-opens for youth

John CrooksEast Knox, Our Town Outdoors

Claude Walker Ball Park re-opened May 19 following major upgrades made possible by a landmark investment announced last year from GEM Community Development Group to enhance city youth baseball and softball.

The ball park at 2945 Wilson Avenue, adjacent to Austin-East Magnet High School, includes:

  • New dugouts, scoreboards, field fence mesh and foul poles
  • A newly constructed 25’ x 70’ covered batting cage with turf floor
  • New synthetic turf for both fields accommodating softball and baseball
  • Renovated central building housing concessions, restrooms and on-site storage

Claude Walker was a longtime supervisor in the City’s Parks & Recreation Department.

The more than $1.6 million philanthropic gift made the upgrades possible. The fields will serve the school’s teams as well as community recreation programs such as Knoxville Area Youth Alliance and Baby Roadrunners football. Emerald Youth Foundation is serving as project manager for the capital facility improvements, in partnership with the city of Knoxville using Elite Diversified Construction Inc., a minority-owned general contractor located in the heart of the city.

The gift also provides a recurring operational investment that will support youth sports commissions inside the city for items such as uniforms and equipment, along with additional operations support.

“GEM believes in the power of youth sports. A thriving ballpark is not only a place for happy, healthy young people but also serves as a community gathering spot. Claude Walker Ball Park means so much to so many, and we are thrilled to play a small part in revitalizing it for future generations to enjoy,” said Randy Boyd, president, The Boyd Foundation.

Also, part of the transformation that is happening with the help of the city is:

  • New landscaping
  • Removal of old scoreboxes and replaced with matching masonry, along with capstones
  • New perimeter fencing to protect the property and allow for controlled entry
  • Added drainage basins and piping to control runoff water, new paving and striping

William Anderson (Photo by Randy Sartin Photography)

Claude Walker Ball Park has been managed by William Anderson for over 30 years. “This has been an amazing project to be a part of,” said Anderson. “The upgrades are something special, and I cannot wait to see our city’s young athletes playing on the fields”

“Partnerships are key as we look to provide a better quality of life for people all across our city,” said Mayor Indya Kincannon. “The investment at Claude Walker Ball Park is so much more than just physical improvements. This project is about increasing access, breaking down barriers and bringing people together. Thank you to everyone who helped make this day a reality.”

Project partners include: Baseline Sports Construction, city of Knoxville, Edison Electric, Elite Diversified Construction Inc., Emerald Youth Foundation, GEM Community Development Group, George Armour Ewart Architect and Vulcan Materials.

Kaylin Chesney (Photo by Randy Sartin Photography)

“Claude Walker Ball Park is where I grew up playing, and my children play there today,” said Emerald Youth’s Kaylin Chesney, director of area ministries for the east and south area. “According to a study we completed several years ago, fewer than 20% of young people in Knoxville’s city neighborhoods are playing a sport of any kind, and youth participation in baseball and softball has been on the decline. This investment is such a blessing and has dramatically transformed the park for our city’s youth to enjoy for years to come,” said Chesney.

Community recreation programs benefiting from the project include Center City Youth Sports Programs, Central Athletic Youth Association (Inskip), Holston Chilhowee Recreation Commission, Knoxville Area Youth Alliance (formerly East Knox Athletic Association), Knoxville Falcons Youth Organization, Mechanicsville Community Athletics Association, South Knoxville Youth Sports and Emerald Youth Foundation.

Investment in the programs above will be managed under the direction of Sanford Miller, director of sports ministry for Emerald Youth Foundation, who also played at Claude Walker Ball Park as a young person. Learn more about Emerald Youth Foundation here.

John Crooks is director of communications for Emerald Youth Foundation.

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