Advisory board gets tour of indoor
by Marsha Burney
Bladen County Parks and Recreation Advisory
Committee members got a special treat at Thursday
night’s meeting when Recreation Director Grant Pait
gave them a first-hand tour of the new indoor
"Grand Slam Batting Cages" opened in May in the
former Bladenboro Armory, and Pait decided to hold
the Advisory Committee’s meeting in the "new" (or at
least new to the Parks and Rec Department) facility
this quarter. Pait gave the committee members an
update, as well as a tour of the facility, and the
members had the opportunity to ask questions. Pait
even treated the committee members to a catered meal
in the "party room" at the facility.
Noting that there are indoor batting cages in
neighboring Robeson and Columbus counties, Pait told
the committee that his department "saw a need in
Bladen County." He added, "We hoped that a private
investor would see the need, too, and start
something like this, but that just wasn’t
happening." The county put the initial investment
into turning the Armory into the batting facility
and is recouping that investment by the fees charged
for its usage.
"The Parks and Rec Department is in the business
of facilitating the recreational needs of the young
athletes in our county," Pait said. "We wanted to
expose our kids in this county to baseball and
softball at a new level."
"Grand Slam" offers four different batting cages
– one for softball, one for youth baseball, one for
high school baseball, and one multi-purpose pitching
There’s astro-turf in all four cages (no
cleats allowed) along with appropriate pitching
machines. There are also helmets and bats at the
cages for the athletes. Three part-time employees
run the facility.
While "walk-ins" are welcomed at a fee of $5 for
a bucket of 50 balls, the best deal is for those who
choose memberships to the facility. Membership rates
are $35/month for an individual or $50/month for a
family, and this allows time in the cages any time
the doors are open and there’s an available cage.
The facility also has a "party room" for rent for
those who wish to host a party in the large meeting
room on the side. The party room rates are $125 for
a two-hour block and the use of two cages.
Additionally, there’s a team rental rate of $40/hour
for two cages.
"We currently have 18 members
now," Pait said, "and that’s about where we
predicted we’d be this early in the facility." To
get a membership, folks need to come by the facility
(on Fourth Street in Bladenboro) or by the county
Recreation Office in Elizabethtown.
"I’ve had so many people my age tell me, ‘Man, I
wish we’d had something like this when we were
growing up,’" Pait said. "It’s a very nice facility
and can serve to help our athletes improve their
"Grand Slam" is open on Mondays, Tuesdays,
Thursdays, and Fridays from 3:30 until 8:00 p.m. It
is also open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays
and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Pait also has plans for little improvements and
added features at the batting cages. He said he
wanted it to get off the ground good this summer and
add little things starting in the fall (like camps
for young athletes).
"We want today’s kids to have more opportunities
than we had," he said.
Pait added that he had
noticed another benefit of the indoor batting cages
– it’s bringing the county’s kids together on
another level. "I’ve seen a kid from West Bladen
working in one cage and a kid from East Bladen in
the cage next to him," Pait commented. "They may
have known the other kid before, but working in the
cages, they get to know each other on a more
The county rents the Armory from the Town of
Bladenboro for $1 a year, and the Mayor of
Bladenboro has paid the rent for the county. The
county has to pay utilities and keep up the grounds,
but Pait said it was an investment that was paying
off – both from the financial aspect and from the
"This place gives our kids such an opportunity,"
he said. "They can be just as good of a baseball or
softball player as they want to be by utilizing
these batting cages."
For more information about
the indoor batting cages, or to make a reservation
for a team event, call the Recreation Department in
Elizabethtown at 862-6770.