Newberry is about to debut its own field of dreams.
Newberry Nations Park baseball complex will host its grand opening tournament March 22 to 24, and the $7 million park could bring thousands of visitors to the city and Alachua County.
“We’re all very excited,” said Kyle Hill, a park employee.
He expects about 500 players to attend. Add their coaches, parents and siblings, he said, and about 2,000 people could visit Newberry for the grand opening, bringing business to local hotels, restaurants and shops.
About 35 teams have registered in the U9, U10, U11, U12 and U13 baseball and the U12 fastpitch softball divisions, and the park will continue to register up to 64 teams from all throughout the Southeast.
Team registration costs $200.
Depending on how many teams register, Hill said, the tournament will begin Friday or Saturday.
A parade at 10 a.m. Saturday will feature some teams, said City Manager Keith Ashby. Local and state representatives have been invited to participate in the parade and grand opening ceremony at 11 a.m.
Saturday night the park will have fireworks.
The park’s 16 fields feature synthetic turf infields and natural grass outfields.
The park is publicly owned, and an increase in the county’s tourist development tax, or bed tax, funded its construction.
If after three years the park attracts teams from across the country, Ashby said, the city will add 16 more fields.
With 32 fields, he said, the park would be the largest baseball complex in the world.
“You’re going to see thousands of guests coming into the City of Newberry and Alachua County,” he said.
Three restaurants have opened in anticipation of the new park, he said, and an ice cream shop and new hotel may be in the works.
The park was built based on projections, he said, that said travelers would spend about $20 million in the county on food, gas and a place to stay.
“It’s certainly got everybody’s attention in the western part of the county,” Ashby said, “and certainly in Newberry.”