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Newberry Nations Park to host grand opening baseball tournament

[jwplayer config=”News-video” file=”wuftnews/20130325NewberryBallpark.mp4″ html5_file=”http://fms01.jou.ufl.edu/wuftnews20130325NewberryBallpark.mp4″ image=”http://www.wuft.org/videoupdates/files/2012/10/WUFT-Generic-Logo_final-854×480.png”] Kathryn Belton reported for WUFT-TV.

Newberry Nations Park baseball complex will debut its 16 new fields Friday through Sunday during its grand opening tournament.

Beginning with a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, the event facility will host its official opening at 11 a.m., followed by the tournament games at 1 p.m. The night will close with a fireworks display.

Sixty teams are scheduled to play Saturday and 48 will play Sunday, said Richard Blalock, director of Newberry Parks and Recreation. He said the tournament is free for the public to attend.

The main purpose of the complex is to draw tourism to the county, create jobs and to stimulate the economy, Blalock said.

With 16 fields all in one location, Nations Park is one of the largest complexes in the country, he said, making it a lot more convenient for the teams.

The fields feature artificial turf infields made of 6 inches of solid rock, 2 inches of crushed rock and a French drain system. This is important because the fields can be used right after it stops raining, as opposed to traditional dirt or clay fields that could take hours to properly drain, Blalock said.

“That’s huge in the state of Florida with the amount of rain that we get, and it’s also a great marketing tool,” he said. “The chances of getting your guaranteed number of games in is better than anywhere else in the state.”

Nations Park was modeled after Cooperstown Dreams Park in New York, he said. It has adopted Cooperstown’s plywood fencing design, which Blalock said gives the fields a unique look like that of an old style ballpark.

Construction began about two years ago but was delayed when it ran into problems like sinkholes and gopher tortoises, Blalock said.

“It took everybody working in the same direction to get a project off the ground of this magnitude,” he said. “We’re very appreciative, and everybody’s excited to finally get the doors open.”

Rebekah Geier wrote this story online.

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(Ethan Magoc/WUFT News)

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