Field of dreams: Local leaders break ground on Miracle Field

A line from a popular movie about a baseball field might best describe plans for a special new field in the city of Columbia: If you build it, they will come.

“I’m never going to forget the dream and the vision of Coach Ray Tanner,” said Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah.

About 50 people gathered Saturday for the groundbreaking of Columbia's Miracle Field at Owens Field Park. (Staff photo)

About 50 people gathered Saturday for the groundbreaking of Columbia’s Miracle Field at Owens Field Park. (Staff photo)

About 50 people carrying shovels and wearing hard hats were at Owens Field Park on Saturday for the groundbreaking of a unique, $1.3 million baseball field. About a dozen children with special needs also got the opportunity to participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

The “Miracle League” field is a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that allows children with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to safely play baseball.

And, one of the largest donations made – more than $300,000 – to get this specialized field built came from one man who knows the impact sports made on his life. The total cost to build the field is estimated to be $1,331,000, and more than $1.4 million has been pledged to the project from different local agencies.

[stextbox id=”black” caption=”Miracle Field Funding” collapsing=”false” collapsed=”false” mode=”css” direction=”ltr” shadow=”true” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″]

Ray Tanner Foundation: $329,190
City of Columbia: $525,000
Parks & Recreation Development Grant: $172,733
Richland Co. Conservation Department: $160,000
Richland Co. Storm Water: $25,000
Richland Co. School District: $50,000
DHEC: $170,000


“It is so special,” said Ray Tanner, athletic director at the University of South Carolina and creator of the Tanner Foundation. “Being a part of sports all my life, it dawned on me years ago that we don’t have enough miracle fields. There is no reason that young girls and young boys with special needs and disabilities can’t enjoy baseball or softball.”

Together with the city of Columbia, Richland County and other local agencies, this miracle field will become a reality.

“This has been a fantastic public-private partnership,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “The business community, the fantastic Tanner Foundation, the city and county and all the different districts that came together to make this happen, to bring the joy of baseball.”

Several people who attended the groundbreaking shared that joy as well.

“The Miracle Field will bring the thrill of sport and a lot of smiles to those adults and children with special needs,” said Richland County Councilman Seth Rose.

For one city councilman, the new field will provide a very special, personal opportunity for his family.

“I have a son with special needs also,” said Columbia Councilman Sam Davis. “And this park is a treasure for him. This is truly a community effort … That’s what makes Columbia special.”

It is an especially exciting opportunity for one organization that already works closely with the families of special needs children.

“These children and their families come to us all the time and say ‘What opportunities are available for our families?’,” said Dawn Darby, co-founder and executive director of The Therapy Place. “We are so excited to be able to tell them about this one. To be able to interact with their typically developing peers and other special needs children from throughout the community, is going to be huge.”

The new miracle field will be ready for action in the summer of 2017.

There will be other new construction and renovations to Owens Field Park as well. A boundless playground, renovations of existing ball fields, walkways, vehicular roundabout and storm water improvements are also planned.