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Discussion on future of Douglas County fairground and ballfields to continue in Colorado

Colorado parents and kids decry possible loss of athletic fields
Colorado parents and kids decry possible loss of athletic fields 02:01

Days after a town hall shed more light on a proposed masterplan for the Douglas County fairgrounds, youth sports leagues are continuing to speak out about a need for more ballfields.

"There's lessons that the kids can learn that aren't learned in the classroom," said Raptors football coach Billy Marsh.

Marsh is a Douglas County parent who has coached all three of his kids in youth sports. He worries a lack of ballfields in Douglas County will be an obstacle to other young athletes.

"There's a lot of opportunities for the sport to grow, but there's not many fields," said Marsh.

Raptors football coach Billy Marsh CBS

He says the community especially needs fields with lighting, which makes it possible for fall sports to be played later in the evening.

It's a problem stemming from growth, that's similar to one Douglas County says they're seeing at the fairgrounds. Concerns over safety, congestion, and a lack of availability have led the county to consider renovations.

"Over the last five years specifically, we found ourselves having more struggles not only during the fair with making room for all of the events and making enough space for people to be able to move around safely but also with year-round events," said County Director of Facilities Tim Hallmark during Thursday's live town hall.

Douglas County held the event to hear from community members and unveil a proposed masterplan that would expand the fairgrounds' rodeo arena and livestock pavilion and, in the process, get rid of three illuminated ballfields. Commissioners say this would help the County Fair compete with Cheyenne Frontier Days, as well as 4-H programs in the county.

"I hope if it goes forward, they take into consideration building new fields before it happens so there's no interruption with youth sports," said Marsh.

Marsh attended the meeting along with other parents and coaches from Raptors Athletics, which says they had to turn over 100 kids away this year due to lack of capacity.

"I think everybody understands the fair is growing. I just hope the commissioners take time to really consider the fields and hear our voices and make sure that there's opportunity for the kids to play sports," said Marsh.

Commissioners say if the fields are lost, new ones can be built using funds from a sales tax, some of which goes to towns.

"Were you satisfied with the response from the county on that?" asked CBS News Colorado's Olivia Young.

"I was! They gave us opportunities to join their meeting June 27 for the parks meeting they're gonna be holding so we can voice our opinions for possibly new fields with the city and county," said Marsh.

June 27 will be another town hall focusing on funding for parks and open spaces, where public discussion about new ballfields will continue.

Commissioners say it could be years before any renovations at the fairgrounds break ground.

CBS News Colorado asked a county spokesperson when the fairgrounds plan will be finalized. She said the county's focus is on investing the time required to ensure an effective public process, so there is no timeline to complete that process. The county also declined an interview with CBS News Colorado.

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