A rendering of the field house at the new Walden complex. (Courtesy APS)

For years, soccer, football, lacrosse, softball and baseball players who attend Henry W. Grady High School’s urban campus in Midtown have dealt with insufficient field space for practice and games.

Relief is on the way as Atlanta Public Schools (APS) converts the former Walden Middle School site near the Downtown Connector in the Old Fourth Ward into an off-campus athletic complex for Grady High School Athletics.

“I am very happy that Grady Athletics will have use of a brand new $7 million athletic center. The setting is gorgeous. The fields have one of Atlanta’s best skyline views. This is a valuable investment,” Ash Parker, Grady Girls Lacrosse Assistant Coach said.

The project is funded by the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that voters approved in 2016 and is on schedule for August 2018 completion.

A site plan for the new complex. Irwin Street is at the bottom and the exit for Freedom Parkway is in the upper left corner.

The complex will feature a turf field shared by the Grady Knights football, soccer and lacrosse teams and a convertible field for softball and baseball practices and games. To improve upon playing baseball on a dirt infield, APS will build a clay pitching-mound each spring.

“With a field closer to Grady, the team can spend more time practicing on the field and not stuck in traffic,” Grady Baseball Coach Darryl Farley said. “This will help us work on more skills and drills that will help us during games. I think we will have better support from the students, teachers, and feeder schools because they will be able to attend our games.”

Once completed, the complex will also contain a field house with locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, storage and office space. Other project amenities will include sidewalks, limited parking, fencing, lighting, scoreboards, dugouts and concrete pads and bleachers. As of early February, the contractor had demolished the building, poured concrete for the field house and graded the fields.

“I love that we are moving towards equity in athletic facilities across the district and that Grady athletes will have some of the same facilities that other high school athletes enjoy.  We realize that competition practices spaces are in limited supply in the midtown area.  This project is moving rapidly towards completion and we anxiously await the day we can hit Knight Field this summer,” Grady Principal Betsy Bockman stated.

Teams like Boys Soccer Junior Varsity team that now practice on a small grassy patch near the stadium will soon have the space to train like their opponents.

The site of the Walden Complex.

“The Walden Complex will allow our Grady sports teams to spread out. We can hardly wait to have adequate training space so we can give our coaches and players the space they need and deserve,” Paige Cucchi, Grady Boys Varsity Soccer.

To truly make their mark on this facility two miles south of its main campus, Bockman has the authority to change the name. Current APS policy states that a principal may “name a room or designate some area on the school’s property in honor of an individual or group that has performed outstanding service to the school.”

“I believe naming the field for the Grady Knights and/or the Grady Cluster would fall under this policy,” Erica Long APS Policy and Governance explained.

Regardless of its name, excitement is building for the new complex to come on line next year, especially for older players and families.

“As a senior I will not get the chance to ‘take the field’ on the new diamond but its still excites me knowing that Grady Baseball will finally have a field that we can call home,” student Miles Pierre said.