Rocket Field came into existence in the late 1950's or early 1960's when a group of local parents started a football program and a basketball program for their young boys. That is how the field became known as "Rocket." Prior to that, the field was part of the old Oconee County High School which only had an organized basketball program for boys and girls, but no baseball or softball. The field at that time was a multi-purpose field. The only baseball played on the field was by teams of adults, quasi semiprofessional teams from Watkinsville, Bishop, Farmington, Whitehall, etc. These teams played games on the high school field usually on Saturday afternoon and with a 25-cent admission charge. In the 1990's, Rocket Field was gifted to the City of Watkinsville by the Oconee County Board of Education when they also deeded the old high school gym (i.e.: the 1902 high school building) and the former vocational building to the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation.
Rocket Field Reimagined & Revitalized
At their July 13, 2022 meeting, Watkinsville City Council announced preliminary plans to revitalize Rocket Field in a significant public-private partnership. These plans call for a refurbished ballfield, dedicated dog play area, and other flexible greenspaces. The field will still be able to accommodate the Fall Festival, and the city will continue to partner with Little League and other area softball teams to ensure maintenance and shared utilization of the field. Detailed background information about the plans is provided below, including a number of high quality renderings.
Please note that there will be public meetings to discuss and obtain input on the plans on August 2 and August 9 at City Hall at 6 p.m. on both dates. Many citizens are active users of the space, so we hope there will be plenty who will be able to attend the meetings and provide feedback. Please submit any questions or concerns about the proposal to City Manager, Sharyn Dickerson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 706-769-5161.
Rocket Field Revitalized
A Generational Opportunity
A hub for Watkinsville for nearly 100 years, Rocket Field has served many purposes for decades. In its earliest years, it was a multifunctional space for the adjacent Watkinsville High School and associated buildings, hosting a variety of sports events, but primarily baseball games. Old photos show baseball fans gathered at the southeastern corner of the park watching locals play ball. When Watkinsville High School closed and was consolidated to Oconee County High School, the field no longer hosted official school baseball games.
In the intervening 40+ years, the field evolved to serve many community needs. On many spring and summer nights, it still hosts little league ball games. On quieter evenings, local residents and their dogs gather, enjoying the wide open spaces of the field. Many weekends each year, the field serves as overflow parking for shows and events at the Oconee Cultural Arts Festival. And every October, thousands travel from near and far to Watkinsville to buy and sell custom made wares and great food at the Watkinsville Fall Festival, approaching its 50th anniversary.
While Rocket Field has served the city and county well, the sad reality is that this mix of uses has diminished its ability to serve any one of its user groups particularly well. A lack of capital investment due to unclear plans have kept the field in a holding pattern, even as neighbors and visitors clamor over its unfulfilled potential as a ballfield, gathering space, and hub for activities. Its restrooms are aging and nasty, its concession stand hasn’t been used in decades, the lights are dated, drainage is a challenge, and the field has the minimum electric capacity necessary to host the Fall Festival.
In 2022, the city has a unique opportunity to re-imagine Rocket Field. With a mix of support from city SPLOST funds, a significant private donor and other community organizations, the city has the opportunity to update and upgrade the ballfield to a full size softball and little league field, returning home plate to its historic location in the Southeast corner of the park. This adjustment in the field’s orientation allows new spaces to be captured in the western and northern ends of the park, with removable fencing being installed to create separate, safe spaces for dogs, families, and ballplayers while still allowing open spaces for the fall festival and parking, when necessary. New lights, electric, drainage and grass will be installed, along with concrete bleachers where the small hill just west of the field sits now, allowing visitors to sit while observing a game. New dugouts will be installed, along with a scorer’s hut, new restrooms, and a modern concession stand. These changes will allow Rocket Field to host small tournaments and games while better serving the youth of our community for practices. A gazebo or shelter of some sort is anticipated at another corner of the field for families or others to use while kids and dogs play, with water stations and -- budget allowing -- some potential other amenities for furry friends and our youngest citizens as well.
- July 13: Preliminary Plans shared at City Council Meeting
- August 2 and August 9, 6 p.m.: Watkinsville City Council will host two public input meetings on proposed plans at City Hall
- August: Plans refined based on public input; further discussion at August City Council meeting
- September: Plans presented and approved by City Council; legal agreements finalized with donor and partners
- October: If plans are approved and legal documents finalized, construction begins after the Oconee County Fall Festival (Oct. 15)
- Spring 2023: Updated Field Available to Public and available for the 49th Oconee County Fall Festival