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Here's hoping Miles Field is not on Wal-Mart's layaway plan

Commentary

I can't claim to be a big fan of Wal-Mart.

Then again, that probably has more to do with my aversion to shopping than anything else.

You could probably count on one hand the number of times I've been to a Wal-Mart, and I have no idea what one of its so-called supercenters even looks like.

My concerns rest more with athletics than saving &

36;1 on socks.

— That's why when the recent debate over Wal-Mart's relocation from Talent to the current Miles Field site began, my thoughts turned first to baseball.

Don't get me wrong, people should be concerned over the affects such a supercenter may have on the local economy and the city's way of life. Those on fixed incomes or seeking more bang for their buck should welcome a company that meets their needs.

There's nothing wrong with looking down the road to ensure future success, but somebody has to peek down every once in a while to make sure no one's getting run over.

And in the sports world, that's not exactly the case when you consider the Miles Field proposal.

A baseball facility needs to be built before this one is torn down, and I haven't heard that it will be, says Jim McAbee, one of Medford's guiding forces in baseball over the past four decades. I've heard we'll have a place, but I haven't heard them say they'll have this other site ready to play on before we take this one down.

The other site is expected to go along with a future 132-acre sports park complex on Highway 99 across from Bear Creek Corp., near the old Starlight Theater. Original plans prior to the recently proposed transplanting of Miles Field called for construction of fields that will be used for American Legion, Babe Ruth, Little League, city softball and Rogue Valley Soccer Club games for youths and adults.

While it may seem to be an afterthought when Miles Field gets torn down to make way for Wal-Mart next year, the timing is of extreme importance to folks like McAbee.

I like all sports, but we're in a different situation and I don't know if people realize that, says the former North Medford High coach and Southern Oregon RiverDogs committee member.

If Miles Field goes before a new one is built, so, too, goes the playing field for both Medford high schools (North and South), the American Legion programs (Mustangs, Colts and Mavericks) and the amateur baseball RiverDogs.

You may say that there's no way the current site would be demolished before a replacement is built, but you're the only ones saying it. Can you honestly say you've read or heard a statement by Wal-Mart assuring that to be the case? How about any county officials?

If it's out there, I haven't heard it.

If there's one thing any businessman knows, it's that you get it in writing. I'm not so sure that has been done. Hopefully so, but I wouldn't want to take the chance.

When they bulldoze Miles Field, they're not wiping out any soccer fields, not doing away with any football, softball or youth fields. Only the upper-level baseball programs are hurt.

If they were tearing all those down, then you'd hear the other people probably squawking, too, says McAbee.

Even if all the timeframes align, that still doesn't assure that the Wal-Mart deal is all that great for the county. Sure, it's a better deal than I could have ever brokered, but I'm not sold.

The county may not have a bigger supporter than yours truly when it comes to building a sports park. But now Wal-Mart wants to throw its hat in the ring, muscle in on the sports park's territory and slap down about &

36;2.3 million for the county's troubles.

And that just doesn't cut it.

I don't think &

36;2&

189; million will build it, McAbee says of a new Miles Field. To replace this ballpark, it'd take much more than that.

And it should.

This community deserves a worthy ballpark, not just one thrown together.

Sure the current Miles Field has seen its better days, but along with Spiegelberg Stadium, it's part of what has put Medford on the map statewide when it comes to athletics.

I hate to see it go, but I understand things need to change, McAbee says of the ballpark. I'm not against Wal-Mart, I just hope they understand our concerns and are willing to listen.

That's not too much to ask for, and now is as good of a time as any. It may be late in the game, but it's certainly not over ' you just have to cut through all the red tape and profit margins.

Once you take away all the dollars and cents, the issue becomes about people.

And that's where it all should have started in the first place.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail