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Council hopes to OK proposal for athletic association

SUGAR HILL -- Less than two weeks from the March 13 opening of its prized Gary Pirkle Park, Sugar Hill on Monday took a step closer to embracing the newly formed Lanier Athletic Association as a prominent tenant there.

At its monthly work session, the Sugar Hill City Council embraced a proposal from association president Jay Peterson to use the new park, as well as the city's long-existing E.E. Robinson Park, for its football, baseball and softball programs that will feed soon-to-open Lanier High.

Highly awaited Pirkle Park already has committed to host the Atlanta Fire United soccer association, which is moving there this spring, after seven seasons at E.E. Robinson.

"I'm not looking for a 10-year or even a five-year commitment," Peterson told the council, "just a little help getting us off the ground."

With its March 27 football and cheerleading registration fast approaching, the months-old Lanier association is seeking its own identity apart from the North Gwinnett feeder program at George Pierce Park, from which, like the high school, it is splitting. Fostered by the Gwinnett Football League, though not yet a member, Peterson said the Lanier association's projected 60-80 football players and 25 cheerleaders from sixth through eighth grade are raring to go with burnt orange Longhorn jerseys wherever this fall.

Likewise, the association's estimated 160-200 baseball and softball players are seeking to play at E.E. Robinson, whose soccer fields were transitioned to additional baseball and softball diamonds.

Tentatively, the Lanier association wants to use 52-acre Pirkle Park for three 90-minute football practices each week for 12 weeks, though it doesn't expect to play games there until 2011, once a GFL member. Sugar Hill still is formulating fees for league agreements at Pirkle, separate from hourly rentals of the park's grass and synthetic turf fields.

"It's about having our own brand," Peterson said. "We didn't ask for this split (from North Gwinnett), but let's cherish it, embrace it, and start building a tradition of our own."

Mayor Gary Pirkle asked Peterson to present a written proposal later this week so the council can decide whether the park will be available and at what cost, perhaps in time for Lanier's football registration.

"In general," Pirkle told Peterson, "we like the idea of helping you get off the ground."

The council also:

* Heard an update from I-9 Sports, the organization that has run Sugar Hill's introductory recreation programs in youth baseball, flag football, cheerleading, soccer and lacrosse for three years on E.E. Robinson's 58 acres. Having more than tripled the roughly 100 athletes it began with, I-9 plans to move all but baseball to Pirkle Park this spring.

* Continued its ongoing discussion of clarifications to ordinances of commercial signs, including electronic ones, particularly their use of moving text and graphics.