#ThrowbackThursday: March 23, 2006 MARA Prepares for its 50th Anniversary

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews News and Record (also called Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published March 23, 2006 and was written by the Matthews News & Record staff.

In the fifties, a group of Matthews’ parents decided that the community needed a Little League baseball program. The parents met in an informal meeting in the basement of the Baptist Church and began their dream.

There was no playground or park in Matthews. Arthur Goodman (1896-1959), an attorney, a member of the North Carolina Legislature and a non-resident of the Matthews Community, had at that time passed away and his widow, Mrs. Katherine Goodman, donated the land in his memory. She allowed the construction of a Little League field on three acres of their land in Matthews. The Matthews Area Recreation Association, a non-profit organization whose function would be to own and operate the Little League Field for all in the farming and rural community of Matthews, was born. This field, built in the spirit of volunteerism and giving, was Field #1 at the Arthur Goodman Memorial Park.

The backstop was chicken wire nailed to used telephone poles and the bases were burlap bags.

As the years passed, the MARA changed, the number of players grew and soon dugouts and storage rooms became a must. These became the first permanent structures at the park. Later, an old snow cone booth became the first semi-permanent concession stand. It was soon replaced by their now existing concrete and brick structure.

The group started planning again and decided that the Little League Baseball Program needed to be expanded and the community needed a complete park — one that would offer a program for girls. The group asked Mrs. Katherine Goodman and Arthur Goodman, Jr. (1927-2003), and his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Klein, if they would help once again. The all answered without hesitation - “If you need to expand the park and enlarge the program, how much land is needed?” It was decided that twelve additional acres would meet the needed requirement and the family said, “Get the deal ready for signing — the twelve acres are yours!”

Now MARA had the land, but little or no money; so they met with Matthews Over Seas Veterans Club. At a special meeting the entire Veteran’s Club Treasury was donated to Arthur Goodman Memorial Park. With the agreement came the understanding that two tennis courts would be included in the park expansion.

MARA acquired materials as reasonably as possible. Moms and Dads did the actual physical work. Tennis courts were built, the old house under the big tree on the hill was demolished and the tractor, storage and bathroom building was completed.

Chicken wire fences came down, new chain link fences were erected, the parking lot was graded, the big boys baseball field (major league size) was graded and girls softball organized. A Junior League football program was started. The Moms and Dads borrowed $5,000 to grade the land and erect fences on the new fields. In 1974, two new dugouts for the big boys baseball field were donated.

In 1983, MARA acquired 6.5 acres of land adjoining the park and started IMY — “Invest in Matthews Youth” — a funding vehicle with a goal of $100,000 to pay for the land and build more fields. The decade ended with continued growth in the Matthews area and continued stress on their size and field limits.

In the early 1990’s, a multipurpose field was converted to two additional soccer fields. Their Little League program was expanded to two franchises allowing additional teams. A membership capital campaign began and allowed much needed aesthetic improvements such as new signs, score boards, and sidewalks. From humble beginnings, they approached the millennium with much enthusiasm for continued growth.

Arthur Goodman Memorial Park has come a long way from its sparse beginning to a beautifully lighted complex where baseball, softball, soccer, and football are played almost year round. Great pride can be felt by every child and parent, player and coach, sponsor and members of the Matthews Community who have given freely of their time, money, talents, resources, and efforts in the same spirit of volunteerism that Arthur Goodman and his wife, Katherine, were shown in the beginning.

In 2006, their Capital Campaign continues, as does their growth and needs. The goals for Arthur Goodman Park are significant, which are diagrammed in the signs throughout the park. Obviously the number of improvements undertaken will depend greatly upon the amount of money raised through Capital Campaign efforts and fundraising.

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The children of Matthews and surrounding areas have benefited from all that MARA has to offer. It is up to all of us to ensure that MARA continues to thrive as a sports complex that is not only modern and safe, but is a place of pride as the children compete in a variety of sports activities for years to come. MARA provides sports programs that serve over nineteen hundred area boys and girls annually and has grown to be one of the largest youth sports associations in the state.

With this being the 50th anniversary of MARA, the annual opening day event has been expanded to include a Friday night event as well. Plans are for the event to occur April 7 and 8 at Goodman Park. All area families are invited to attend the festivities at the park. Special guests, food vendors, a silent auction, sports celebrities, and an array of activities for kids to enjoy are planned. All former MARA players from the last fifty years are encouraged to contact the association regarding this event. You may contact MARA at 704-847-0752 or visit www.marasports.org.

Here’s to the next fifty years of sports at Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association and all the kids they will serve along the way. HAPPY 50th ANNIVERSARY!!