Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 10, 2013

Richlands Youth Baseball League looks to use empty airplane hangar as practice diamond

CLAYPOOL HILL, Va. — An area intended for flying planes is now being used to catch fly balls.

Jerry McReynolds, manager of the Tazewell County Airport, said the Richlands Youth Baseball Boosters Club has been given permission from the airport board to practice in the new hangar whenever it is empty in hopes the league will draw more people to the facility.

“They are not currently using the hangar, but have permission to use it,” McReynolds said. “The new hangar has not been rented out yet, and they asked if they could use the space since it isn’t being rented out. The airport authority board thought it would be a good idea to support the youth league and that it would get more exposure for the airport.”

McReynolds said the league can move their equipment out quickly and will only be using the hangar until the weather warms up.

“All of their equipment is mobile so it can be moved out at a moments notice if the hangar is needed,” he said. “They are only using half of the hangar. They will mainly be using the hangar after hours and on weekends. You can still use the other portion of it to store aircraft overnight. Right now, they are using it to practice during adverse weather conditions. Once things warm up they will be back outside. We have an agreement with them for about a year, but nothing is set in stone. When the weather warms up they will probably be practicing outside.”

John Clifton, with the Southwest Virginia Baseball Association, recently asked the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors for a $5,400 grant so the youth league could ensure their practices did not cause any damage to the hangar.

“We have a usage lease on the hangar at the airport, and are there at the pleasure of the airport board,” Clifton said. “We have half of the big hangar to practice baseball indoors. All of it is for the kids. What we are looking to do is to get enough money to protect this structure from our activity. We have until the end of February to get everything out of our current building, and the airport board has been kind enough to take us in to that hangar. We want to put our stuff inside of that building and make sure we don’t do any damage to that building and turn it back to the county at a moments notice better than we left it.”

Clifton said the baseball league approached the airport authority about using the hangar after losing the lease on their current facility. Clifton said the baseball program is a positive activity for youth from across Tazewell County.

“Kids from all over the county can use it as long as we have insurance on them,” Clifton said. “We will continue to use it as long as we are able to. This will give our kids the ability to be competitive year-round. Everything we would put up there we should be able to take down. Nothing attached is permanent. We are completely non-profit and do fund raisers for our end of it. It’s expensive to play sports anymore. Everything you do costs money. We are just asking for a small contribution.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Absher and Eastern District Supervisor Charles Stacy both agreed to donate $1,350 from their district funds to the league while Northwestern Supervisor Seth White provided the remaining $2,700 from his fund.

McReynolds said hosting the youth league at the airport is a good way to advertise the facility.

“The airport is on top of a mountain by itself,” he said. “It’s so amazing how many people in the immediate area have never been to the airport. This will bring up the young people and their parents. This could get the youth interested in flying. The more people who see the airport, the more people know about it. This is good exposure.”

Though the new hangar is not being used at the moment, McReynolds said there are nine planes being stored at the facility with room for many more.

“There is another corporate hangar available for aircraft and all of the T-hangars are full,” McReynolds said. “The corporate hangar as of right now has an aircraft in there that was being housed on the ramp during the wintertime.The person who was renting that sold his plan and turned the corporate hangar back to the airport authority. He have nine aircraft currently being stored on the premises and we have room for about 10 more inside the hangars.”

McReynolds said the airport is also working on several renovations.

“We also have some major construction going on to put in an automatic weather briefing station for our pilots,” he said. “We are also going to have a new ramp and taxiway behind our new hangar done in March or April. We are repainting the terminal building with new carpet. We will have new striping on the runways. We have a lot going on this year.”

Additionally, McReynolds said the airport saw more corporate traffic last year than ever before.

“The airport is doing really well,” McReynolds said. “We had a record on our business aircraft this past year. I think the airport is very important to the region. Sometimes, this airport is the first place people ever see, so it is a very important part of the economy. The airport is here to serve the community for whatever the need is. We want everyone to be satisfied with the facilities we have here.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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