Little League baseball is alive and well in Greensboro, Ala., thanks in part to five thesis students who developed a new master plan for the town's 40- acre Lions Park.

Prior to their involvement, the park was slipping fast. Baseball fields were scattered willy-nilly on the grounds, large slabs of parking surrounded the open pavilion, and a paved road encouraged vehicular traffic deep into the site. The local Lions Club, which owned most of the land and wanted to give Greensboro a lasting recreation area, asked the Rural Studio to take on the job. A $100,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which required a $50,000 match by the community, gave impetus to the project. And a multiheaded client group (including the Lions, the city of Greensboro, Hale County, and the Greensboro Baseball Association) meant that the students had to juggle many interests.

Their plan for the site yielded a hub-and-spoke organization of four fields around the existing pavilion, and much of the grant money went into purchasing new light poles and fixtures. The fun part, says former student Daniel Splaingard, was the backstops and dugouts. The backstops “are an interpretive understanding of how a backstop could work better if you had a pole-bending machine,” he explains.

In order to shield fans from the terror of foul balls, the students made the backstops taller than normal and angled them forward for better deflection. The dugout roofs are streamlined, sculptural forms made of 14-gauge galvanized sheet steel that was laser cut and broken at a shop in Tuscaloosa. Initial experiments with the bent poles were conducted at a local muffler shop, but the final fabrication also was done in Tuscaloosa.

The first phase of construction finished in the spring of this year, just in time for the 2007 baseball season. Large-scale graphics made from reflective film used on highway signs are soon to be added to the dugout roofs. Two additional Rural Studio teams are now at work on a park landscaping project and construction of restrooms and a pavilion stage that will expand the possibilities for community use.

PHASE 1 PROJECT TEAM (FALL '05–SPRING '07): Laura Filipek, Alicia Gjesvold, Jeremy Sargent, Daniel Splaingard, Mark Wise