Outdoor activities abound in central Kentucky

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By Russ Brown

A popular annual event in Lexington is the 10,000 Bluegrass and Fun Run. The 2021 race featured both in-person and virtual races. photo LFUCG

(KY CENTRAL MARKET REVIEW) – After a year of cancellations and adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports and recreation in central Kentucky in 2021 are now back to “semi-normal,” which means once again more than there are no shortage of opportunities for the passionate interior and exterior of the region.

An exciting announcement for sports fans came in October, when the United Soccer League announced it was adding Lexington Professional Football as a USL League One expansion club. The game is scheduled to begin in the 2023 season. The club’s inaugural season will begin at a local college facility, but Lexington Pro Soccer is hoping to build a stadium downtown.

The majority owner of the team is Tower Hill Sports, founded by Bill Shively.

“Since the inception of League One, Lexington has been a place we have wanted to be because of its famous sporting history and growing appetite for football,” said USL President Jake Edwards.

Lexington Pro Soccer plans to respond to a request for proposals for the High Street development project, with the intention of building a state-of-the-art football-specific stadium on the site. The place could host festivals, concerts and other events.

The return of events in person

Directory Bluegrass State Games were canceled in 2020 for the first time, but returned in 2021. Kyle Childers, marketing director for the Lexington-based Bluegrass Sports Commission, called the event a “huge success.”

Normally, the Games would attract 15,000 participants in more than 30 sports, with an estimated economic impact of $ 6 million. This year, the most important events were high school soccer (170 teams) and high school volleyball (110 teams). Pickleball has grown the fastest, growing from 115 participants in 2019 to 310 in 2021.

“While we didn’t have enough time to kick off the typical 30-40 sports for July, the sports we hosted saw participation at or above the 2019 level,” Childers said.

A Midsummer Night’s Run had over 2,300 competitors in the 5K, which represented about 75% of 2019 participants, and 150 children competed in the Fastest Kid in Town races.

“While things haven’t completely returned to normal, there is definitely an appetite to return to competitions in person,” Childers said. “I hope things improve for the summer of 2022 so that we can organize a full program of events.”

The Bluegrass State Games are a privately sponsored non-profit program to promote amateur athletics across the Commonwealth. It is the flagship event of the Bluegrass Sports Commission, designed to provide Kentuckians of all ages and abilities a pathway for positive development through sport and physical activity, to promote and develop the amateur athletics and provide an opportunity for amateur athletes to show their talent. and receive statewide recognition.

The commission released an economic impact study this summer that showed that a 130-acre youth sports complex could generate up to $ 24 million in revenue per year for Fayette County. The commission said it was continuing a fundraising campaign to build the $ 25 million complex, which would host baseball, softball, soccer and other youth sports tournaments. The commission has embarked on a seven-figure private fundraising campaign to pay part of the cost of the project and will seek $ 18 million from the city of Lexington.

Meanwhile, another project that will have a significant impact on recreation in the Lexington area is the ongoing construction of Town Branch Commons, a public-private park and trail system that traces historic Town Branch Creek across. downtown Lexington.

Construction is complete on Newtown Pike and continues on Vine Street and Midland Avenue. When completed at the end of 2022, dedicated bike and walking trails in the downtown core will connect to the Legacy Trail and Town Branch Trail. This will create a 5.5 mile loop on the north side of downtown, providing access to the county’s growing trail system.

A new playground at Charles Young Park features Lexington’s first turf slide and a rotating globe climber. Today it is one of the largest playgrounds in the city.

Fundraising is almost over for City branch park, the iconic park of the Town Branch Commons project, which will transform more than 9 acres of parking in the Manchester Street car park behind Rupp Arena into an inclusive, vibrant and fun green space.
Town Branch was Lexington’s first water source. The system will include continuous cycling and walking paths and a green strip through the city center, connect new and existing parks and improve water quality. The trail is funded by a wide range of federal and state grants that leverage locally raised dollars.

Mayor Linda Gorton said the city is working to reopen the Legacy Trail, Lexington’s longest and most popular mixed-use trail, as soon as possible.

Construction at the entrance and exit to Amazon’s new last mile delivery station at 1180 Newtown Pike closed a section of the trail in mid-July. Then utilities closed the trail to complete their connections to the new facility and in anticipation of future work on Newtown Pike.
“We recognize that it is embarrassing. Trails, like roads, are affected by construction and infrastructure maintenance that takes place near or under them, ”said Nancy Albright, Environmental Quality and Public Works Commissioner.

To ensure the safety of cyclists, a section of the trail is moved to where it crosses the Amazon property. The new segment will be further from the road. A culvert is being installed so that trail users can pass under one of Amazon’s new walkways to protect cyclists and pedestrians from Amazon traffic. The developer of the Amazon facility is funding the track work on its campus.

The trail will be closed again this winter to allow the City’s Water Quality Division to complete the sewer work.

In another development, the city received a grant to help build Splash !, a permanent water feature, at Charles Young Park. A Building Better Communities grant of $ 250,000 was awarded to Lexington by the American Water Charitable Foundation.

Lexington Parks and Recreation celebrated the return of favorite city traditions after pandemic cancellations and also added new programs, said Amber Luallen, superintendent of arts and cultural events.

Most programs resumed in March, staying at reduced capacity with registration, social distancing and mask requirements until those restrictions are lifted in June. Back over the summer, Ballet Under the Stars and Woodland Art Fair. Additionally, there were new learning opportunities at Artworks at the Carver School, and horseback riding and fitness classes are also making a comeback in therapeutic recreation programs.

In natural areas, community centers and camps at McConnell Springs and Raven Run have extended their hours of operation. Lexington also hosted the fourth annual Nature Hop this fall, a series of events focused on connecting people with green spaces across Fayette County.

Raven Run is a unique 734-acre sanctuary located just outside of Lexington. The park borders the Kentucky River and is a great place for hiking and wildlife viewing. Seven trails ranging from one-third of a mile to four miles traverse meadows, woods and streams characteristic of the Inner Bluegrass.

McConnell Springs Park is a 26-acre “natural pocket” located in an industrial area that includes two main springs. The National Registered Historic Place was once home to a gunpowder factory, a distillery, and a dairy farm. Another outdoor area near Lexington is Hisle Farm Park, with horseback riding and hiking trails.

The Boone Creek Limestone Gorge ecosystem off I-75 between Lexington and Richmond is a unique area, where Boone Creek Outdoors runs canopy tours over old hardwood trees. Tours consist of six ziplines, three sky bridges, floating stairs, abseil and more.

Central Kentucky is home to an active cycling community. The Capitol View Park in Frankfort has a network of approximately 11 km of ATV trails, which were built starting in 1997 by local volunteers. The Bluegrass Cycling Club hosts annual group rides from March through October and also hosts the annual “Horsey Hundred” cycling tour.

All parts of Kentucky are blessed with access to many opportunities for outdoor recreation, the crown jewel of which is a large and diverse collection of 45 state parks that offer a wide range of activities such as golf, fishing, camping, swimming, boating, hiking and biking.

Those who prefer to be observers in addition to or instead of active participants also have a lot of choices. They include Keeneland, the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team, and University of Kentucky basketball and football, which have regained their full potential.

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