Where did the programs go?

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2018

Harmon Field board discusses loss of baseball, reduction of equestrian sports

TRYON — During a meeting this week about where unexpected funding would go at Harmon Field, some residents asked why baseball fields were no longer being used and the equestrian park is hardly used.

The Harmon Field Board of Supervisors met Tuesday and heard from residents Hilda Pleasants and Susan Bell.

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Pleasants asked about the baseball fields.

She said Harmon Field used to host Little League, and no longer does. She said all four of her grandchildren played Polk County Recreation sports, and now they no longer play baseball at Harmon Field, saying she thought some of the reasons were costs.

Harmon Field Supervisor Travis Aldred said Harmon Field only charged the recreation department $3 per child for Tryon Township residents and $5 per child for other county residents for baseball. Now, Harmon Field charges the recreation department $8 per child to play soccer, no matter where they live.

Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said if the county made the decision to switch baseball to the middle school fields, the decision was not Harmon Field’s, and he does not think it was the park’s fault.

Harmon Field Chairman Benny Smith said Harmon Field wants baseball. He said the reason for the switch to the middle school was because people out in the county did not want to drive all the way to Tryon.

“We would love to have them here,” Smith said.

Smith also said people are not playing baseball like they used to, and thinks some programs are struggling to have enough children to have a league.

Ball asked if the equestrian park at Harmon Field is a source of revenue.

Smith said Harmon Field gets $1,500 per year from the Blue Ridge Hunters and Jumpers Association, and a percentage of their profits on shows.

Ball asked if the park has been rented out recently like it used to be for equestrian shows.

Aldred said four or so years ago, BRHJA had 26 shows per year, and this year Harmon Field is looking at maybe six shows.

Ball asked if the decline had anything to do with the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Aldred answered no. He and Smith said more shows are going to FENCE because Harmon Field does not have the space or stalls for some of the shows.

Ball said the equestrian rings are a huge part of Harmon Field, and is real estate that is no longer being used. She suggested the board think about another use for that part of the park.

Aldred explained that BRHJA pays $1,500 a year to lease the space, and Harmon Field also gets $250 per show per day. He estimated this year there will be nine days of shows.

According to the figures, Harmon Field will make less than $4,000 this year from equestrian events, including the $1,500 lease of the park. BRHJA also does maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the equestrian rings and stalls.

Tryon Commissioner Crys Armbrust attended the meeting and said the equestrian rings used to be rented for 42 weeks per year.

“There are many equestrians who would sponsor a weekend show if they were given the opportunity to do so,” Armbrust said.

He asked when the contract with BRHJA is to be renewed. Smith answered Jan. 1, 2019.