• Lillie Burke

Rose Park set to open Feb. 12

On Jan. 26, 2006, Belmont University announced a plan to renovate and use nearby E.S. Rose Park as the home for all outdoor Bruins teams. On Feb. 12, 2011, after more than five years of legal wrangling and community controversy, a Belmont team is scheduled to step on its new home field at Rose Park, 10 blocks from the university’s main campus.

That weekend, the Belmont softball team will christen the new field with an inaugural tournament. It will be the first of many openings for baseball, soccer, and track and field teams during the next few months. None of these teams have had a home built specifically with them in mind in years. Because of this, the enthusiasm around Belmont athletics is obvious, said associate athletic director Steve Barrick.

“We all can’t wait. There’s a lot of anticipation and excitement around here,” he said. “They’re all ready for it to open and get out there.” For many, the anticipation has been in the making for a long time.

“We’ve had the hope for a new facility to years and now to see it coming about at Rose Park is great. Our team is elated about the fact we’re going to play there,” said head baseball coach Dave Jarvis.

The new facilities will completely change how Belmont athletics sells itself to the community, Jarvis said.

“It’s going to be a major sea change in our program,” he said. “The facilities are the lifeblood of a program, and the first-class facilities that Belmont is building will be a tremendous addition to each of those outdoor sports.”

After years of Belmont teams playing home games all around Nashville, having every outdoor team in one park is a major benefit to the program, Barrick said. It will also allow the 120-140 student-athletes moving to Rose Park to have a “good bonding experience.”

Construction is currently on pace to have baseball and softball fields ready by mid-February. Barrick also expects the men’s and women’s soccer teams to practice on their new field in the next few months.

The plans are subject to change if weather becomes a factor. Teams have contingency plans in place if this happens. “We don’t want to rush it. We want it to be done right,” said Barrick.

The road to the renovated Rose Park has not been without controversy. For several years, opponents in the Edgehill community kept the agreement between Metro Nashville and Belmont in court. A final decision in Belmont’s favor from the Tennessee Court of Appeals allowed construction to begin in July.

With construction nearing completion, meetings are being held with officials from local schools, Belmont, the Edgehill community and Metro government to try to make sure of a smooth transition for everyone involved.

“It’s a team effort. We’re working through any problems or issues anyone might have,” Barrick said.

According to the agreement between Belmont and Metro, the park will still be owned by the city of Nashville. The university will work around the schedules of local schools and the community when planning their own game and practice schedules. When not in use, the park will be completely open to the public. In the agreement, Belmont also plans to give $5000 a year to two Edgehill schools and award 10 full or partial scholarships to local high-school students.

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