Columbia County's newest place for fun and games, Blanchard Woods Park, will officially open Saturday.
County officials will cut the ribbon to mark the Evans park's opening at an 11 a.m. ceremony, said Barry Smith, the county's director of community and leisure services. The festivities will also include an appearance by Augusta State University Athletics Director Clint Bryant, whose cross country team will use the park's NCAA-approved course as their home venue.
The grand opening will be followed by Columbia County Patriots soccer games, which will start at noon.
The $5.1 million first phase of Blanchard Woods makes up about 40 acres of the 150-acre park and includes four soccer fields and a practice field.
"Overall the park is just about completed," Smith said. Crews are finishing some minor landscaping, installing a couple of extra parking lot lights and completing asphalt work, he said.
Officials had hoped to have the park's first phase completed by mid-August, but intense summer heat delayed some work, Smith said. Still, the fields have thrived despite the heat and will be ready for play.
Smith said the first phase relieves pressure from Patriots Park. A second phase of Blanchard Woods, which will include seven additional soccer fields, isn't slated for construction before 2010, Smith said.
The goal is to move all county soccer leagues to Blanchard Woods upon completion.
"Unfortunately, we (currently) only have five soccer fields at this park," he said. "We'll need 12 soccer fields to move all soccer to Blanchard Woods Park."
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