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When were the baseball and softball fields built and torn down where Lowe’s Home Improvement store and Walmart are now in Monkey Junction?

Tom Grady

According to a story published in the May 29, 1983, edition of the Sunday Star-News, the first games were played at the Kelly Field sports complex at Monkey Junction in April 1983.

The facility, also called the Benson Complex by locals, was named for Frank Kelly, the supervisor of athletics for the Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department.

The seven-field complex was a boost to the annual Azalea Festival Softball Tournament and, by 1985, 254 teams were in the brackets, according to founder Bobby Benson.

He said he developed the idea for a multi-field complex after a visit to Oklahoma City for a softball world series.

Benson said he told himself, “I can do that in Wilmington.” The facility was used for league play and weekend tournaments. And in the winter months, soccer was played in the outfields.

By 1990, sewer requirements at the facility prompted the need for an expansion of the system. Benson said he was not allowed at the time to connect to the county sewer system and adding more septic tanks ran up against the presence of a flood plain on the site.

Also at that time, Benson said running the complex “got to be a full-time job.” And he also was running his Southeastern Machine and Welding business.

So he said 1990 proved to be the final season for the Kelly Field complex and, soon thereafter, he sold the land.

The fields and the property sat dormant for many years before the development of the Walmart and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores.

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