The Bonifay Recreation Center has been a large part of the community since its construction in 1987 and has since helped generations create memories on the ballfield. The center has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years; however, the Holmes County Dixie Youth Association (HCDYA) has been working behind the scenes to keep the facility open and in working order.
Ownership of the property was recently reverted from the City of Bonifay back to the Holmes County Board of County Commissioners, with the city citing a lack of funding to make the needed repairs. HCDYA members say they are hopeful this will make an era of revitalization for the center.
Meanwhile, the Dixie Youth board, as well as some parents, have been doing most of the work and upkeep at the ballfields.
“We as parents, coaches and board members have been doing the scheduling, field maintenance, and team assignments,” HCDYA President Garrett Curry. “It has been all done with volunteer efforts. We have been using Dixie Youth funds from concessions and registration fees to pay for all the work going into this facility.” Curry says these types of tasks are usually handled by a recreational director, but that position was cut under the last several years of owner-ship by the City of Bonifay due to lack of funding. Holmes County Manager David Corbin says the county plans to look into the possibility of creating a recreational director position as part of the county’s ownership and operation of the facility. “We will be working on the budget for next fiscal year in a couple of months,” said Corbin. “When we begin that process, we will be taking a hard look at what it would take to create that position.”
Many parents of the current Dixie Youth players also played ball at the rec center when they were young athletes, a fact Curry says makes efforts more meaningful. “At least half of our parents played ball here at this facility,” he said. “Because of that, their work means even more. We as parents want our children to play ball and have core memories that will last a lifetime. Everything we do as coaches is for the kids and the community. We want to keep our program going and help keep these kids off the street. We don’t just coach ball; we are also helping to instill life skills while they are with us.”
Curry says he is also hopeful the county will take on more responsibility with the facility. “Our hope is to bring the center back to where it used to be,” he said. “However, we need to take the responsibility off the parents and put it back on the county where it belongs. Our biggest goal is to see the facility run more efficiently.”
Bonifay Kiwanis Board Member Sandy Spear says the Kiwanis Club supports the efforts of both HCDYA and the county by sharing a common goal. “The overall goal is to help the youth of Holmes County,” said Spear. “The Kiwanis Club donated $10,000 to the county for emergency funding for repairs and maintenance that was sorely needed. We sup-port the efforts of Dixie Youth and the county to keep these kids playing ball.” Corbin says those funds were put to use when county crews made repairs and improvements to the restroom facilities, and crews are also working to correct lighting issues at the fields as well. “We don’t have a boom truck, so we are having to borrow one,” he said. “As far as I know, Dixie Youth has the bulbs, so we just have to furnish a truck to reach the 40 feet high fixtures to take care of that.”
Holmes County Sheriff John Tate has chipped in as well, providing inmate crews to clean up and cut grass at the facility. “I was more than happy to provide inmate crews to do the work at the rec center,” said Tate. “Our crews have pressure washed sidewalks and bleachers, painted, cut the grass around the fields, and did an all-around clean up. Even our inmates have said they were happy to help the kids have a clean and safe place to play ball.”
Curry says the HCDYA is thankful for the combined efforts. “We are eternally grateful to Sheriff Tate, the county commissioners and the Kiwanis Club,” said Curry. “We are thankful for all of their hard work because they are all doing a great job.”
Curry went on to observe that hundreds of local children stand to benefit from the improvements, stating about 500 children from ages five to 11 signed up this season for baseball and basketball. Opening Day was held on April 2 and saw 19 baseball, tee-ball and softball teams compete with Corbin throwing the first pitch to commemorate the county taking ownership back.
“Every commissioner on the board has the same goal in place,” said Corbin. “Bringing the rec center back, bigger and better than ever before.”