Proposed Buckingham softball complex goes to public hearing

Published 1:00 am Friday, April 28, 2023

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Marci Lowrance wants to give back to her community. The Buckingham County native has played softball at multiple levels, winning all-district and all-region honors in high school, then continuing at Longwood and Charleston Southern. She’s also been a coach, teaching the sport at a charter school in South Carolina before moving back here and continuing to coach. Now she wants to take a former school and transform part of it into a Buckingham softball complex.

Lowrance went before the Buckingham County Planning Commission on Monday, April 24 with her request, which is centered around GRIT Softball Academy. GRIT in this case stands for Greatness, Resilience, Intelligence and Tenacity. 

“Those are things I really try to instill in all the girls that come through my facility,” Lowrance told the commission. “I really feel that young girls today have a really hard time. My goal is to teach them that they can do hard things, that they’re important, they’re capable and none of their identity is wrapped up in what other people say or do.” 

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She added that to get softball lessons growing up, her parents had to take her places like Ashland, Petersburg and Richmond. But Lowrance wants Buckingham girls to have access to the same types of facilities here at home. 

“I want the girls of this community to have access to that and to not have to pay the astronomical prices my parents did,” Lowrance said. 

About the Buckingham softball complex

The property is one that’s likely familiar to many readers, as it’s the old Gold Hill Elementary School. Located at 59 Gold Hill Elementary School Road in New Canton, Lowrance wants to open a fully turfed facility in the old cafeteria. 

“It would be a fully turfed facility with batting cages, and plenty of room for softball workouts for all the girls in the community,” Lowrance added. 

The facility would be open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and every other Sunday after church, Lowrance said. 

She also got endorsements from some of her former players, who encouraged planning commission members to move it forward. 

“With Marci, she does not care who your parents are, she’s here to be a good coach and to help you,” said Annabelle Bryant. “I think she should be able to continue her lessons. They’ve helped me, they’ve helped my sister, they’ve helped my cousins and plenty of other girls in Buckingham County.” 

Lowrance needs a special use permit because of where the property is. The former elementary school is in a Light Industrial zoning district. Right now, the county doesn’t allow things like a private recreational facility to be in the area, with one exception. If the person comes before the planning commission, and then the board of supervisors, they can request and possibly be approved for a permit that way. 

As the property is a former elementary school, designed to handle parents coming and going with their students, the Virginia Department of Transportation has signed off, saying a traffic impact study isn’t required. 

Monday’s discussion was pretty quick, as all commission members voted to send it to a public hearing. That’ll take place during the group’s May 22 meeting, starting at 6 p.m. 

“One of my passions is to give back to the community that gave me a lot,” Lowrance said. “They taught me a lot about softball, it’s where I found my love for it and I just felt there was nothing here as far as quality softball instruction to give to the girls here.”