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Bluffton, community group considering Eagles Field partnership

Blufffton's Eagles Field could soar again if a partnership between the town and the committee which maintains the facility is realized.

The agreement, which already has the town council's blessing, allows the town to use the field for events in exchange for its support of various Bluffton Eagles Community Action Committee initiatives.

That committee oversees management and maintenance of the Sam "Boise" Bennett Sports Complex on the corner of Bluffton Parkway and Buck Island Road.

The committee "has not had sufficient financial and administrative resources" to implement large-scale improvements and additions to the field, according to town documents.

"(The committee has) had some trouble raising money and they need some partners," Mayor Lisa Sulka said earlier this week. "Hopefully we can help find some grant money for them."

The partnership would allow the committee to lean on town staffers' experience in finding state, federal and private grants.

The Buck Island-Simmonsville Neighborhood Plan, developed in 2009, provides some examples of how grant money could be used to improve the Eagles Field site.

That could include adding more seating, restrooms and concession areas, as well as new "barbecue pits and eating areas to better serve the community as a year-round gathering location," the plan says.

The plan also recommends adding a new community center and youth baseball field to the site.

Town councilman Fred Hamilton, who is also president of the action committee, said Wednesday the partnership could be a "very important for advancing recreational opportunities" in the Buck Island-Simmonsville neighborhood.

As part of the partnership, the town would mow the grass every month. The committee would also have access to town maintenance equipment.

The town also promises assistance in historical research and possible listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a town memo.

"There's so much history in that field," Sulka said. "Wouldn't it be great if we could help get more recognition for that history?"

The town would get access to the field for recreational purposes and town sponsored events like National Night Out.

The agreement must be approved by the Bluffton Eagles Community Action Committee before it goes into effect.

"There is some language we want to clear up, but other than that, we are on board," Hamilton said.

There is no date set for when the committee will meet to vote on the agreement.A BRIEF HISTORYEagles Field began as a site for pick-up baseball games in the 1930s.

In the 1960s, three local teams merged to form the Bluffton Eagles.

The semi-professional team, which competes in the S.C. Lowcountry Baseball League, was coached and managed for decades by community activist Sam "Boise" Bennett, who died in 2010.

The Bluffton Eagles Community Action Committee, which manages and maintains the field, was formed in 1993.

In 2001, the developer who owned the property deeded the site to the committee to ensure it would always be the home of the Eagles.

A year later, the site was dubbed Sam "Boise" Bennett Sports Complex to honor the team's former coach.

Follow reporter Lucas High on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Lucas.

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