Build it and they will come play

Midland's parks are seeing major updates this summer. An accessible baseball field continues construction, pickleball courts are now open, and the BMX track undergoes major improvements.

The Middle of the Mitt Miracle Field construction continues

A nationally recognized organization meant to bring smiles to the faces of disabled athletes and their families will make its debut in Midland’s Central Park next spring. Construction is currently underway on The Middle of the Mitt Miracle Field

The project has been made possible through many grants, donations, and the efforts of the City of Midland’s Parks and Recreation Department. Assistant director of public services, Marcie Post, took this on a personal project several years ago. She hopes disabled athletes will come out, have fun and enjoy using the Middle of the Mitt Miracle Field.

“To watch these games is like going to a World Series. They’re so positive, and everyone is cheering. Everyone gets to bat, to score and at the end of the day they’re all together. It’s a real community.”

The Miracle Field, located in Central Park, will be a fully accessible soft surface baseball field for athletes of all ages with physical and cognitive disabilities.Post describes the Miracle Field as a fully accessible soft surface baseball field for athletes of all ages with physical and cognitive disabilities. The field is designed with a poured rubber, barrier-free surface to provide a safe, fully accessible place for athletes to play baseball. 

“That way there’s nothing to trip on, run over, or for a wheelchair to get caught on. It will service all disabilities, from someone who is blind, has autism, Down syndrome — all disabilities,” she says.

Post describes the games as “so much fun to watch,” adding that every player hits, runs, and scores and all players are paired with a buddy who is a volunteer member of the community for each game. Buddies assist with the fundamentals of the game and help foster peer relationships. 

Post says there are about 60 local athletes who will participate and have interest in playing on the field.There are presently 240 plus Miracle League Organizations across the country, including Puerto Rico and Canada, while serving 200,000 plus children and adults. Post has traveled to about eight Miracle Fields, including Plymouth, Grand Rapids and Bridgeport. She has spoken with many parents, caregivers and athletes and received much input on what is needed “to make it a great experience for everyone.” 

Post says there are about 60 local athletes who will participate and have an interest in playing on the field. “We have a lot of interest,” she says.

Registration to play will begin in March 2022 with games going through the fall. 
Organizations or businesses that want to bring a squad to the field will be welcome.

The field will host the Middle of the Mitt League with players from Midland and surrounding communities such as Mt. Pleasant, Gladwin, Clare, Bay City and Saginaw. In addition to hosting the Miracle League games, the field will also be the site of a variety of other activities including movie nights, Veterans programs, holiday-themed activities and other community programs.
 
The project has been made possible through many grants, donations, and the efforts of the City of Midland’s Parks and Recreation Department.The Miracle Field is located in Midland’s Central Park. Phase I of construction, which includes the field, dugouts, accessible parking spaces in front of the complex and three of the four restrooms is in the process. The cost of the project is just over $2 million, including a $100,000 endowment fund for future maintenance needs. Donations are still being accepted.

Check out their Facebook page and the City’s website for more information on how to support the project and to see a list of donors.

Pickleball courts are now open

New pickleball courts are open for play, next to the Midland Community Center.Another major project in Central Park has been completed and is now open for the public to use. New pickleball courts are being played on, next to the Midland Community Center.

The courts replaced some older, cracked courts near the King’s Daughters Home. The City of Midland Parks master plan to include the new courts was drawn up in 2017. Small and large donations helped make the new courts possible, according to John Muste, a longtime tennis player and pickleball enthusiast. Muste is happy to see a year-long project come to fruition.

Muste says playing pickleball is a fun sport for anyone at any age but especially seniors. It’s a sport that’s been gaining in popularity over the years because it tends to be gentler on the joints and the equipment is lighter, he says.

Pickleball has been gaining popularity over the years because it tends to be gentler on the joints and the equipment is lighter.“It’s a fun way to be and stay active. It will definitely improve your fitness,” Muste says. “You can compare it to tennis, but pickleball appeals to people because it’s played with a smaller, lighter paddle on a smaller court; so there’s not that much running.”

Muste, who plays the sport regularly along with tennis at the Midland Community Tennis Center and table tennis at the Midland Community Center, added pickleball into his fitness routine because it was easier on his joints and improved his endurance.

“It’s a fun way to be and stay active. It will definitely improve your fitness."He says there are about 170 people looking to play on the new courts. “There’s no fee to play and it’s open to anyone of any age. Sometimes we get teens and younger adults.”

To sign up to play, Muste suggests downloading the area’s pickleball app at Team Reach where players can find times, courts and other players looking to play doubles. 

“It’s a very enjoyable sport. I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug,” says Muste. “It’s an activity I look forward to.”

Midland’s new BMX track could open by end of July

After much public interest, longtime mountain biker and former BMX (Bicycle Motor Cross) racer Vincent Miller spearheaded the project to get the Stratford Woods Park-Great Lakes Bay Region BMX track rebuilt. 

“It was perfect timing. People were really interested, especially during the [COVID-19] pandemic,”

The new BMX track has no schedule yet for competitions. There's hope the track will open by the end of July, but funds to complete the fencing around the track still needs to be raised in order to open.Last year with the pandemic, interest in the track ramped up, according to Miller. Improvements to the track include it being regraded and adding loops and moguls. Assistant Public Services Director Marcie Post says there are bigger turns for bikers of all generations, “Folks are really excited.” 

Miller first contacted the City of Midland and expressed interest in getting the track rebuilt. With support from city staff, Miller then contacted the national organization, USABMX, and asked for a professional track-builder to come to Midland to give recommendations. He also organized Zoom and on-site meetings and got advice on how to rebuild the track. Miller continued to attend meetings with City staff throughout the process.

Improvements to the BMX track include it being regraded and adding loops and moguls.“Midland is a great place to bike,” says Miller. “With the biking trails, the skate park — we thought the new BMX trail would go right along with all of that.” 

Miller moved from Virginia Beach to Midland and says the area has a lot of fun things to do for the outdoorsy type, and the new track adds to the many choices.

“I would love for my boys to follow in my footsteps and take up [biking]. I would like to inspire them,” he says.

The new track has no schedule yet for competitions. Miller hopes the track will open by the end of July. Funds to complete the fencing around the track still needs to be raised in order to open.

“Midland is a great place to bike. With the biking trails, the skate park — we thought the new BMX trail would go right along with all of that."Check www.USABMX.com  for more information on volunteering and competition information. Volunteers are still needed to run races and competitions.

“I’m excited for it. We really had to start from scratch on this,” says Miller, who adds that the track is expected to operate from spring through fall. 

The track will be available for public use from 8 a.m. to dusk, April-October, weather permitting. Helmets and protective gear are recommended, and all ages and abilities are welcome.

Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika Hirschman has covered a wide array of topics in Midland County including education, human interest, local government and crime. Erika holds a journalism degree from Marygrove College/University of Detroit-Mercy.

 

Erika is an award-winning reporter, and has written for various newspapers and magazines in the state. When she’s not writing, Erika loves to read and travel, dance in her kitchen with her family and two dogs, and advocates for cancer treatment and research. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 25 years.

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