At the Old Ballgame: Ballparks National opens fields for play in Macks Creek
In the second half of 2019, the inclusion of a multi-field soccer complex stood out as one of the prominent discussions around the lake area. While the project had its fair share of supporters, many were concerned over the funding mechanism being suggested and the project would eventually be voted against by the public. Still, although the vote failed, it was clear that lake residents craved some sort of family recreation besides boating.
The Ballparks of the Ozarks project began it’s conception nearly a decade ago and officially began moving dirt in 2015. However, any announcements as to the progress being made were hard to find, as it seemed by many that the project wasn’t moving forward much at all. Now, in Sept. 2020, Ballparks National General Manager Jeff Vernetti is hosting games on their completed fields and is soon to open registration for 2021 tournaments, serving as the next recreational hub of the Ozarks.
Vernetti says the only thing that has stopped progress is bad weather. The team moved 250,000 cubic yards of dirt to level out their location in Macks Creek before building a single field. The investment team behind the project decided to shore up some details before moving into construction and put the project on hold. In 2018, the project was back in motion. With the finances secured and progress being made, Vernetti says they decided to wait until the beginning of 2020 to make any formal announcements so that they wouldn’t be drowned out by the soccer vote.
But all of that is history at this point. Now, Vernetti and the Ballparks National group are ready to showcase what they’ve been working on. By the end of next week, the site will have 5 completed fields. The fields are all tailored to softball and baseball teams of different age ranges, with different fence lengths and base locations adjustable to suit older and younger players. The fields are entirely made of synthetic turf and can be played on in most conditions without fear of injury or flooding.
“Long term, we are hoping to do some other sports too, but for now we want to make this work,” Vernetti said.
A lot of care went into the design of the fields and how they were arranged within the park. Sun angels should never be in the player’s eyes, the dugouts have protective netting to avoid foul balls, parents have optional lawn-chair seating available and more.
“We spent a lot on the design and we think this is really unique,” Vernetti said.
When teams come to the area, Vernetti says they will get a discount card to use at various businesses throughout the area. Ballparks National will not use a stay-and-play model, but will rather try to organically promote hotel stays and local attractions through simply bringing teams to the areas. During the span of a week-long tournament, Vernetti says they will takes Wednesdays off to let players rest and to let them spend one day enjoying all the lake has to offer.
The fields are currently being used as primary fields for the Macks Creek school district. Vernetti says that on those Wednesdays when the tournaments are on break, they will try to fill the fields with lake adults softball and baseball teams and host small games throughout the summer.
Vernetti says he and his team and proud to bring the site to life at the lake. Having owned property here for many years, he says it’s nice to be among the many locally grown establishments that have planted their roots at the Ozarks and plan to keep things going for decades to come. He says the business should bring around 100 jobs, both full and part-time.
After years of work and the trials that came with it, Vernetti says it’s rewarding to finally see the plan come to fruition. He says that it’s hard to put into words the feeling they’ve had after seeing the response from residents. He hopes the final product can be used as inspiration for others.
“If I would have seen this start and stop, it would have seemed like a lot of projects that were announced and never happened,” Vernetti said. “There were so many people that were on our side, I feel like part of this we’re doing just for them.”
The Ballparks National park can be found at 480 K480 Kissick Way Macks Creek, MO 65786 and contacted at (573) 552-9300. The park’s website can be found at https://ballparksnational.com/