PARKLAND – Most new sports facilities are controversial, especially those that come at some expense to taxpayers.
And then along comes a concept like No Limits Park, which proponents believe would be the first of its kind in the country, and you wonder how anybody could possibly be against it.
Imagine a place for special-needs children and their families to gather for weekly games of soccer, kickball, basketball, flag football, tennis and running.
Imagine a place for teens and pre-teens to perform community service while having their eyes opened to the harsh realities and immense courage of those less fortunate.
Thanks to Parkland Buddy Sports, which has been around for a decade, those activities already take place here in this corner of northwest Broward County.
My 14-year-old son Daniel was one of the volunteers for Soccer Buddies last winter and experienced tremendous personal growth in the process.
However, with a No Limits Park, the brainchild of program founder Jeb Niewood, there would be a single, dedicated location for those games to take place without scheduling conflicts or interruption.
“This would be a place where every element is inviting, accessible and safe,” Niewood said. “This is where we want and need to go.”
There are no guarantees Niewood will get his dream complex built, but early indications have been encouraging.
A recent appearance before the Parkland City Commission drew praise for the program, which is in the process of gathering landscape designs and cost estimates.
A 20-acre portion of the newly incorporated “wedge” would be ideal, Niewood said, but a scaled-down project would be welcome, too. A major developer has expressed interest in folding the No Limits Park concept into its plans.
The main thing is that one of South Florida’s most respected endeavors has a place to continue the remarkable growth and momentum of its first decade.
“I don’t really think it’s that much of a dollar-centric question,” Parkland Mayor Michael Udine said at the June 20 commission meeting. “I think it should be done just because it’s the right thing to do.”
Some of the Parkland commissioners understandably want to know more specifics before signing off on the idea.
There is some concern that to set aside an entire facility for Parkland Buddy Sports would be to invite other groups to ask for their own versions.
Some on the commission wondered if it wouldn’t be better to simply assign a certain area of each park in the city to the “buddies,” so as not to remove them from public view.
“We want the buddies to use all our facilities,” Udine said.