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LITTLE LEAGUERS DON'T WANT TO SWAP FIELDS

A compromise may mollify both Southeast and Progress Village players.

Despite the run-down concession stand, shaggy infield grass and fences in disrepair, Southeast Little League doesn't want to move.

The county is promising a new, $7-million sports complex in Progress Village with seven baseball fields, two football fields, a new concession stand and plenty of parking.

No thanks, say officials with Southeast Little League in Palm River.

It's not that they don't like Progress Village. They'd be happy to merge with Progress Village Little League, which is what the county plans to do.

But if that means relocating about 75 blocks from Rubin Padgett Park to the planned 120-acre sports complex, they're not interested because they'll lose too many players.

About one-third of Southeast Little League's players walk or bike to practice, board member Lori Inkpen said. The players often come from single-parent homes, which means getting a ride to practice isn'tso easy, she added.

And biking down 78th Street to the complex isn't an option because there aren't sidewalks along the whole route, Inkpen said.

"They're not going to go to the new park," she said, noting that the area has few other after-school programs. "They'll be out on the street with no support."

For every Southeast Little League board member who doesn't want to move, there's one from the Progress Village Panthers football league who can't wait.

The football players are sometimes on the field until midnight because there's only one field at Progress Village Park, team president Harold Williams said.

Progress Village residents have heard rumors about a new park for years, but they haven't seen results, Panthers' board members told county parks officials at a meeting Monday.

They're skeptical because they've wanted a new park for a decade, Panthers board member Henry L. Harris said.

"It was always put on the back burner," he said.

County officials are left to decide what to do with a baseball team that doesn't want to move and a football team that can't wait. The park is expected to open in late 2010.

County parks director Mark Thornton said he's open to changes, such as reducing the number of baseball fields. That would allow the sports complex to serve Progress Village Little League, which wants to move, while reducing the cost of the sports complex.

Some of that money could then be used to upgradeSoutheast Little League's park.

Thornton said he hopes to meet with the two baseball teams to find out what they want.

That needs to happen soon, he said, because he doesn't want to delay the project.

He's got too many football fans watching and waiting.

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