Buckingham County softball complex gets first approval

Published 10:58 am Thursday, May 25, 2023

DILLWYN – GRIT Softball Academy took another step this week toward becoming a reality. The concept for a Buckingham County softball complex, developed by county resident Marci Lowrance, was unanimously approved by the county’s planning commission in their Monday, May 22 meeting. 

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, she said in the original public hearing last month. 

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

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“I’ve heard a lot of people in the county who have really approved of Marci’s training and teaching of those children and they would really love to see it keep going and I’m right there with them,” said planning commission member Danny Allen. 

Lowrance is a Buckingham County native and has played softball at multiple levels. She won all-district and all-region honors in high school, then continued 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 the former school and use part of it to help players develop in more than just on the field. 

“I want these girls to have confidence,” Lowrance told the planning commission. “I want to see it in their grades. I want to see it in their confidence in school.” 

Developing GRIT

GRIT in this case stands for Greatness, Resilience, Intelligence and Tenacity and that’s what Lowrance told the commission she wants to help players develop. They have to identify personal goals, then write them on their mirror each day. 

She added that parents of her players have shared how her work has helped their daughters be more assertive, both in the classroom and in general.

“She doesn’t let these kids talk bad about themselves,” said her husband Isaac. “She’s so good at making sure girls understand softball is a great thing to do but it shouldn’t be your identity. You’re bigger than softball so don’t make that all that you do.” 

Several letters from parents of her players were also read to the commission Monday. All of them stated how hard it was finding a complex where their children could train. And each pointed out that it would be nice to have something like this in the county, so that residents don’t have to go to Richmond or Chesterfield to find something comparable. The commission members agreed. 

“I think it’s an excellent use of the fields and facility,” said commission chairman John Bickford. “I played some sports in my time and you learn about the game, but you also learn lessons for life.” 

As for why the request came to the commission, 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. 

What’s next?

Now that the commission has given approval, it goes to the board of supervisors for a vote. The request for a Buckingham County softball complex will first come before them during the next meeting, scheduled for June 12 at 7 p.m.