FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — KNWA/FOX24 has received complaints from Fayetteville youth softball ball coaches and parents saying their softball facilities are inadequate compared to their youth baseball counterparts.
Back in 1999, Fayetteville announced the Gary Hampton Softball Complex. Parks and Rec director of the time, David Wright, said the primary use of the facility would be girls youth softball and second to that would be adult softball leagues.
Since then the girls have been given the boot from Gary Hampton and forced to play at Lake of Fayetteville. Facilities coaches and parents are describing this as their children’s first lesson in gender inequities.
“You don’t recognize these issues until you have a daughter and once you have a daughter you do start to see they are treated differently,” says parent and coach, Denton Kilpatrick.
“I feel like it’s unfair because girls most of the time don’t play sports. Because they don’t think that they can and Fayetteville is not making it any better because they’re just like giving us the bad stuff,” says youth softball player, Ariel Boyer.
This softball player tells me all they want is to go back and play at their previous home field, Gary Hampton. something Lee Farmer with Fayetteville Parks and Rec. says is not possible.
“Part of the move that we made several years ago was to have adult softball play at Gary Hampton. Right now with the current programs registration that’s happening we’re not able to move them over there because the adult softball leagues are dominating all of the time,” says Farmer.
Farmer believes the low participation numbers can be connected to the pandemic.
“I think a lot of it can be attributed to not having this program in 2020, due to the pandemic, so we’re kind of in a rebuilding year for all of our programs,” says Farmer.
Coaches and parents claim these participation numbers are a direct result of the sub-par facilities.
“I just feel like these facilities are uninviting. If you see what we play at versus what the kids in Springdale play at, and if you see this field versus what the boys play at Mount Kessler or Gary Hampton Softball Complex, you would be concerned to for your daughter,” says parent and coach, Joel Scott.
The largest problem with the fields being drainage issues, which more often than not, cause the girls to miss their games entirely.
“We’ve only played 3, but 2 of them were at the high school so we’ve only really played 1 here,” says Boyer.
Farmer confirms the ladies’ BullDog coach has been nice enough to accommodate the girls on their field when Lake of Fayetteville is unplayable. He adds the parks and rec. have money allocated to update the Lake of Fayetteville Softball Complex in 2022.
The project would include tackling the drainage concern by adding synthetic turf, however, the project is pending city council approval.