DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Destin High School (DHS) Athletic Director Phil Dorn presented at the city council meeting Monday night asking to renovate a field at Morgan Sports Center to become a home baseball field. The Okaloosa County charter school completed its first year of operation without a home field or sports facility.

Six fields are currently in operation at the Morgans Sports Center off Commons Drive. Two of those are youth baseball, four are softball fields. Dorn and the school board hope to renovate one of the four softball fields into a high school compliant field.

“We knew that a couple of their fields already have some of the parameters that we need, that’s the 100-foot foul poles and some of the things that were in the ask are already in existence. To renovate a field at Morgan Park is a very simple process for that area and so we were asking to partner with them to help do that.”

Phil Dorn, DHS Athletic Director

A home field at Morgans would provide a practice and game facility year-round. The sports center sits 1.3 miles from the DHS campus, making it ideal for the team and student drivers around town.

This renovation would require the following improvements to the Northeast field:

  • 20-foot fence at the back of the field. Approximately 4,056 sq feet foul pole, to foul pole.
  • Re-do the infield with grass and 90-foot base paths.

DHS also looked into Destin Elementary School as an option. The board said the Okaloosa County school board has a plan to expand the school in 3 to 5 years, making a field at Destin Elementary a short term solution.

“Well, it requires a large amount of work, but the biggest thing is that you’re going to pay twice. So if you build that field up and use it for a few years, it’s going to be partially torn down so that the elementary school can expand. What the the community members and the parents want to do is they don’t want to pay twice to build a compliant baseball field, let’s build up one. “

Phil Dorn, DHS Athletic Director

Councilmembers and city staff spoke about the current programs held at the sports center. Some raised concerns that if you change one softball field to a baseball field, it can no longer be used for large softball tournaments held in Destin.

Next Steps

Dorn addressed the council asking for teamwork with the Parks and Recreation Department to find a solution and if this idea would be an option.

If approved at Morgan Sports Center, the school would have renovations done by the first practice in January of 2023.

Councilman Dewey Destin made a motion in the meeting directing city staff to look into a permanent field for the high school. That motion will be carried out to figure out the construction costs for a field at Destin Elementary school. The staff will work with DHS to figure out improvement costs at the Morgan Sports Center.

The DHS Board said the council misunderstood the presentation, the board is not asking for money or for the city to build a diamond. The Board is asking for permission to change a field at Morgan Sports Center to become a temporary home for the teams. All costs for the changes would be covered by DHS.

Who owns the land?

Morgan Sports Center is a mutual agreement between the City of Destin and Destin Water users.

The land on Commons Drive is owned by Destin Water Users. A contract started in 1998 gave the city permission to lease the land for a sports complex, minding underground usage of the land for Destin Water disposal.

Lockwood Wernet with Destin Water Users said turf is not an option at Morgan Sports Center, but would like to work with DHS to make a baseball field a reality.

DHS Baseball Program

The Destin High School baseball team is one of the 22 sports programs DHS successfully hosted in its first year of operation.

Without a home field, Dorn said the DHS Varisty team traveled 2,537 miles to play all 25 games away.

The team did not score a winning season in its first year. Dorn said the program will add a junior varsity team for the 22-23 school year.

DHS kids speak at council in support of home baseball field

Commotion at Council

Councilmember and Mayor candidate Rodney Braden spoke after the motion was passed and public comments were heard.

Below is the transcript of what was said by councilman Braden:

“I just want to clear a couple of things up that I think need to be said.

One, I believe if it was not for Dr. Prebble Ramswell who sat in this seat right here on this council, there would not be a Destin High School. I think Myra was on that group, the committee, you probably was too, there were several people. But if it wasn’t for the young lady that sat right here, and it was said earlier that they haven’t asked this council for nothing. But it was this council that gave you a high school, I believe. There’s a lot of people that worked on it, but if wasn’t for Mrs. Ramswell there wouldn’t be a high school.

So, and we are trying to work, we have our staff trying to work. And we can’t. And for someone to come to that podium and tell me that I need a field, and if you don’t give me what I want, where I want it, how I want it you’re a horrible person and need to be taken out back and beaten with a stick.”

Rodeny Braden, Destin City Councilman

These comments caused the majority of DHS baseball supporters and team members to leave the council chambers.

“At the end there it was totally an antagonistic comment made by the City Council member and there was absolutely no need for that,” said Dorn outside of the chamber.

Braden walked out of the meeting shortly after these comments for personal timing reasons.

Dorn said the school board and members were disappointed in the initial motion and discussion at the meeting.

“I think as a high school, you look a little bit defeated there. I think from the Council that the idea of working together and putting a team together, people that could help make this happen for our kids in our Community, seems a little bit foreign at the moment. So I think what we’re going to have to do is fall back and regroup and find a way to obtain land and see if we can do this, maybe without the Council.”

Phil Dorn, DHS Athletic Director

Public comment at the end turned positive. Board members and the remaining council staff spoke about finding a good solution.

The next city council meeting is July 11, 6 pm at the City Hall Annex. A video of the public comments and discussions about the baseball is available, while you can learn more about DHS as well.