All-Inclusive Facilities Eliminate Mobility Barriers
In 1997, a 7-year-old boy named Michael Moore caught the attention of Eddie Bagwell, coach of the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association in Georgia. Moore, who was wheelchair bound, attended every baseball game and practice to support his younger brother. Inspired by his passion for the game, Bagwell invited Moore to join his team. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Bagwell’s invitation was a catalyst for change that would create new opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
By spring of the following year, the first Miracle League had formed with a mission to provide children with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball. What began with just 35 players on four teams in 1998 has grown to include over 275 Miracle League Organizations with more than 180 Miracle League Fields. Located throughout the United States and beyond, the Miracle League now provides over 200,000 children and adults with access to special, all-inclusive facilities that meet their needs.
While reflecting on recent Miracle League projects in Ames, Ankeny and Urbandale, Iowa, Diane Goering, PLA, with Snyder & Associates points to all-inclusive facilities as part of an important, growing recreational trend.
“The number of Miracle League facilities being built continues to increase, which helps bring awareness to an underserved population within our communities,” she said. “It’s a great thing to see and be a part of.”
Unique aspects of a Miracle League Field over its traditional counterpart include wheelchair accessible dugouts and a rubberized surface to prevent injuries while providing a flat surface that eliminates mobility barriers. All-inclusive playgrounds go beyond ADA requirements to provide ample room for those with mobility devices to be able to navigate and enjoy the equipment. Careful consideration is taken into account to create an experience suited for children with varying sensory, motor, strength, cognitive, and social/emotion skills.
Expanding Recreational Amenities Through All-Inclusive Play
Often incorporated into existing parks and little league complexes, Miracle League facilities work to expand park amenities in areas already treasured by community members.
Completed in 2015, the Ankeny Miracle Field and All-Inclusive Playground utilized open space within the little league complex at Hawkeye Park. Due to its proximity to Terrance Elementary School, the park is utilized for outdoor recess activities in addition to hosting Miracle League events and being open to the public.
Recently completed and opened to the public in spring 2018, Urbandale Miracle League Field replaces an existing field at Northview Park. By offering kickball and other events, Urbandale aims to utilize the field to increase athletic opportunities for adults with disabilities as well as children.
Ames Miracle League Field embraces the natural wooded setting of Inis Grove Park and utilizes its existing topography to create a unique, all-inclusive experience. Careful thought and planning were used to mitigate concerns regarding stormwater management, traffic, noise, light pollution, safety, and its close proximity to neighboring homes while achieving community project goals.
Proven Expertise in Creating Active Play Spaces
For Goering and her colleagues, the unique process of merging Miracle League facilities into locations with existing amenities is a welcome challenge.
From how to best orient the field within the space available to how to foster the safe, efficient flow of pedestrian traffic to and from the field, a variety of aspects must be addressed.
Miracle League guidelines and requirements guide engineers, landscape architects, planners, and other professionals during design and construction. A thorough understanding of Miracle League expectations and establishing strong relationships with approved vendors helps streamline the process and guide project success. In addition, professional expertise in meeting ADA requirements, as well as knowledge of how to go above and beyond them, create a facility that’s more inclusive is a team asset.
Making a Difference for Children & Adults with Disabilities
Miracle League facilities improve communities by reaching out to a broader scope of people. They can be used by children and adults with disabilities as well as typical little league programs. For Goering, being able to contribute to the creation of Miracle League facilities is something close to her heart.