The fields outside the old Bates Middle School in Annapolis hardly beckon ballplayers or anyone else. Grass and weeds grow a foot high. Rust eats away at football and soccer goals. Joggers have to settle for a cracked and buckled asphalt track.

But by this time next spring, workers will carve a field of dreams from the ruins there.

County and city officials gathered under a tent at the old ball fields yesterday evening for a groundbreaking ceremony kicking off construction of a renovated athletic complex to be built on some 25 acres.

The long-delayed, $725,000 project includes a new lighted practice field, as well as renovation of the former Annapolis High School stadium football field and baseball and soccer fields.

The projectalso will add a paved trail, a 100-car parking lot with Spa Road access, a community playground, restrooms and an athletic equipment storage building.

Elected officials representing Annapolis agreed thatan athletic complex there is desperately needed.

Noting that manyother communities throughout the county enjoyed sprawling new complexes, Delegate Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, said, "It's about time Annapolis youngsters have a sports complex to call their own."

The renovation project came as a result of a cooperative effort involving county and city governments and the county school board.

The board owns the land, the county's Department of Recreation and Parks is overseeing the project and the city will operate and maintain the complex.

Who will pay the tab remains uncertain. County officials had hoped to get the money from state Program Open Space funds, but that is now doubtful because of recent cutbacks.

If state money won't cover the cost, County Executive Robert R. Neall has agreed the county will, said William Rinehart, the county's parks administrator.

Heralding the cooperation between the city and county, County CouncilwomanMaureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, said, "I think this is the beginning of agreat cooperative relationship between the city and the county that's going to go on and on and on."

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