Construction date set for Palmetto Little League

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PALMETTO - The day Derek Goforth has waited years for is nearly here.

"On March 11, dirt will be moving, and this project will be started," said Goforth, president of the Palmetto Little League.  "No one ever envisioned that it would take this long to get it."

In less than two weeks, construction crews will begin turning the empty lot at Blackstone Park, into one of the Suncoast's premiere Little League facilities.

"It's the most optimistic we've been," said Goforth.

The road to get here though hasn't been easy. Funding was always an issue, along with finding a suitable spot.

Once Blackstone was decided upon in 2012, testing revealed the ground was contaminated with pesticides. After more investigation, however, officials determined the contaminants could easily be removed, clearing the way for fields that Palmetto Little Leaguers can finally call home.

"We wont have to share fields with adult, county and church league softball teams," said Goforth, "we don't have to try and figure out practice schedules to work around county leagues playing on the fields we share now."

The current fields at Blackstone aren't up to national little league regulations, putting the Palmetto Little League at a disadvantage from other Suncoast teams.

"It's been a long time coming," said Goforth, "we've got some kids, some of the younger kids in our league who have never stepped foot on a regulation little league field, these adult fields are all they've ever known."

The city of Palmetto contributed $800,000 to help fund the project, which Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant says was a wise investment, given the thousands of kids these fields could impact.

"The Little League, their boundaries are Manatee County to the north, I-75 to the east and Manatee River to the south, so that's a lot of kids that have gone without fields to play in," said Bryant.

The fields should be completed in the fall of 2014.