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Bobby Richardson

Bobby Richardson

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Patriot Park getting ready for World Series Patrick Enzor / The Item This is a view of the softball complex at Patriot Park.

In two weeks, the park will host the 2009 Dixie Girls Softball World Series in which 58 teams from around the Southeast will descend upon Sumter.

By PATRICK ENZOR Item Assistant Sports Editor [email protected] Although a penny at a time, the new softball complex at Patriot Park has gone up in a hurry.And with the 2009 Dixie Girls Softball World Series just a couple weeks away, it had to.

Plans are for a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week to officially open the the complex and on July 31, 58 softball teams will descend upon Sumter for the World Series.The complex was funded by the Penny for Progress, the penny sales tax that passed in November."We're going to kick it off with a bang," said Sumter County Parks and Recreation recreation director Phil Parnell.

"I think people are going to be really excited when they see it."Its come along really quick," he added.

"They've done a good job of staying on it and trying to get it prepared for the World Series.

Its been step by step."Parnell said the goal of the complex was to be fan-friendly.

He feels that has been reached, if not exceeded."We've tried to take the best parts of other complexes and incorporate it into this park," said Parnell.

"This facility is going to be as nice as any facility.

It'll be the best facility in the Southeast."The biggest thing we wanted to do was make it fan-friendly," he added.

"They wouldn't have to bring tents and all that.

We made it comfortable where they could sit and watch a game and be in the shade."At each of the four fields, there are permanent seats under an overhang that allows ample room for fans who want to get out of the sun.

With the dog days of August just around the corner, that will be a definite plus.There is also room around the field that people can set up chairs if they'd like, plus there will be bleachers between the backstop and building for more seating.

A central concession stand with men's and women's restrooms also facilitate the process of watching a game.Also, the dugouts are at field level, which allows fans to set up shop behind the dugout on the hills and see over it onto the field.Not all 58 teams will be playing at Patriot Park.

For the first three days of the tournament, only the Angels and Ponytails — the two youngest age groups — will be playing at the park.

The Belles and Debs — the two oldest age groups — will play the first three days at Bobby Richardson Park.Once the brackets are down to four teams, then all age groups will move to Patriot Park.The complex also allows for Sumter to host bigger weekend softball tournaments.

Parnell said that without the new complex, Sumter still hosted some 250 teams this summer — not counting the World Series."What this park does is gives us 16 fields (with Bobby Richardson and Dillon Park)," said Parnell.

"So we can now host tournaments with over 100 teams.

We're already getting calls on doing that."For now, Parnell and company will just wait for the "wow factor.""It's really going to be special when you see them pull up in the parking lot and they see what's out here," smiled Parnell.

"We've been trying to do this for over 20 years and now it's finally here.

It's going to be amazing to see those kids' faces."Contact Item Assistant Sports Editor Patrick Enzor at (803)774-1228 or [email protected]
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