On the beautiful sunlit morning of Sept. 23, the Insperity Adaptive Sports Complex opened its gates for the first time and two softball games were played by four Miracle League teams of very special children.

The games followed a brief opening ceremony highlighted by the Atascocita High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Honor Guard and the ceremonial opening game pitches, the first thrown by the fundraising committee co-chairman, Mark Koenig, to player Luke McClendon.

McClendon started things off right when he caught the ball. The teams then proceeded to “Play Ball!” cheered on by their coaches, families, volunteers and supporters. There were no losers here, only winners.

The specialized sports complex is the result of a partnership between the YMCA of Greater Houston and Humble ISD and many community volunteers and donors. Insperity is the lead donor with a contribution of $1 million over a five-year period in support of the ongoing operation. The Astros Foundation has made major contributions and is funding much of the uniform costs.

Koenig walked through the complex, thrilled with how it appeared and the way the kids and all their supporters were enjoying its features. The athletic fields with their special surfaces, a pavilion, and the landscaping are all beautiful and functional, he said, but it was the general playground area that dominates the back of the park that caught his attention.

“The playground is exactly what I thought it would be. It is going to be the highlight of the park. It is beautiful,” said Koenig.

The $4.8 million complex is a 5-acre facility located in The Groves subdivision in the southern part of Atascocita. It is built between the brand new Groves Elementary School at 11902 Madera Run Parkway and a middle school under construction and planned to open at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

Two specially outfitted softball fields are laid with a synthetic surface, striped for softball, but able to be adapted into other sports field configurations. Because the field surfaces are made with special synthetic material, they are usable in wet weather, can be easily dried off and the complex will never be closed due to muddy, slippery or wet weather conditions. Included are team dugouts built to accommodate wheelchairs and other special needs such as walkers and handholds.

The adaptive play ground: something special.

A large, open-air but covered pavilion accommodates concessions, storage areas and a small office. Just behind the pavilion is a covered basketball court for use in playing wheelchair basketball games or by siblings of those playing other sports.

Also included is the distinctive and adaptive playground area in the back of the park equipped with rows and ramps for wheelchairs and walkers so that they are accessible to children with those special needs. In addition, there is a sensory station for use by children with autism or other disabilities. The entire facility, including the playground, has the special synthetic surface to make it safer and easier for maneuvering through wet conditions in wheelchairs and walkers and will be lighted for night use.

Joe Cleary, one of the key proponents and fund raisers for the complex, explained during the fundraising process how it will be utilized.

“The Lake Houston YMCA has a use agreement with the school district. The YMCA will run it and use it for all their integrated sports, including the Miracle League and other adaptive sports and exercise programs. It will also serve as a hub for Humble ISD’s integrated athletics programs. When the new middle school is opened, that is typically when the school district’s special needs programs get under way in the area. The YMCA will coordinate routinely with the school district to avoid schedule conflicts. The result is expected to be full utilization of the complex up to six days a week and sometimes seven,” said Cleary.

So, in spite of Harvey and in the spirit of “Houston Strong,” the park is open, delayed by only a week. The grand opening and celebration originally being planned before Harvey will be rescheduled in the spring.

 

 

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Bruce Olson
Author: Bruce OlsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
I have been married since 1970 to Kerry, my best friend and a great Australian woman. I served and survived Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. I fought forest fires in the summer while in college, where I earned a B.A. in economics from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. I retired from Continental Airlines. I have a son and two granddaughters in Kingwood, and a daughter and two grandsons on a farm near Mazabuka, Zambia. I am now enjoying life as a grandfather, Tribune correspondent and Humble ISD guest teacher when not traveling to Zambia or Australia.