The future of Billy Sunday Field, a city-owned facility that is the home of Nevada High School baseball, is under discussion.
At Monday’s School Board meeting, Tim Hansen, director of Nevada Parks and Recreation, spoke with board members about the possibility of giving up the historic baseball field in favor of putting a new field at the SCORE Park.
Hansen introduced the topic by telling school board members that the discussion of Billy Sunday Field has come up a number of times since the mid-1990s, when the city was doing a footprint of the SCORE Park. Hansen said, at that time the city went to various groups and asked what they wanted to see at SCORE, and the school had indicated it would like space held for a future baseball facility.
As the SCORE Park put in many of the things that were planned for that space over the years, Hansen said the school never had the money to put in a baseball field, as facility needs took precedence, understandably.
The land for the baseball field at SCORE still sits empty. It is located at the furthest northeast corner of SCORE and is utilized presently by the Nevada Soccer Club for youth practices.
Since the mid-1990s, Billy Sunday Field has had its share of issues, the biggest of which has been flooding. Hansen said three times since he came to Nevada in the early ’90s, there have been FEMA claims from flooding, the biggest occurring in 1993. These FEMA claims, he said, have been for fencing and repairs to the field’s turf, batting cages, etc.
Another problem at Billy Sunday Field is the lights. "About five years ago, we ran into a light issue," Hansen said, noting that lights would just go off. "We’ve invested a fair amount of money in dealing with those issues, but it seems (the problem) has resurfaced." Hansen said the lights have gone out recently during several events.
City engineers have estimated the cost of a new baseball facility to be around $900,000. Close to $100,000 will be on just the lights for the field. Hansen said it’s a cost too steep for one entity to take on the project alone, so he wanted to put it on the school’s radar to think about as they do long-range financial planning. "I just wanted to plant the seed and leave it for you folks to consider," Hansen said.
Questions came from several board members.
Laura West asked if the lights have been replaced at any time or just fixed. Hansen said the lights are the same as they were 20 years ago, but all the controls have been replaced. He said the problems that they were having previously with them going out and it appears to be happening again, are being looked at now by Jeremy Williamson. But, Hansen said, it can be hard to figure out what’s causing the problems when so much is underground. "We’re trying to see if there’s a bug in there that we can get worked out."
Either way, the lights are old, and high school baseball coach Doug Anderson, who was present for the discussion, testified that they are not the best lights to be playing under anymore.
Mike Bates asked what direction the field would be placed if moved to SCORE. With the help of Anderson, who calculated the angle of the sun at the time of most games, it was determined that it would be best to build it with home plate facing the northeast.
Board president Marty Chitty asked, "Would there need to be additional parking?"
Hansen said, no, that the parking lots were sized with the baseball facility in mind. Hansen added that electrical hookups were also extended out to that area when the park was built.
West asked where the soccer teams currently practicing there would go for practices. Hansen that would have to be worked out later with the soccer club.
Chitty asked if, in addition to the high school baseball team, there would any other teams interested in using the baseball field. Hansen said the Collins Clippers have paid to use Billy Sunday Field on occasion, and in the past, the Iowa Games has used Billy Sunday Field, just not in recent years. There have also been a few older youth baseball teams that have played at Billy Sunday Field for a few of their games.
Dave Sutherland asked if the city ever gets noise complaints from the neighborhood just north of SCORE, as a new baseball field would add to that noise level. Hansen said they have not had any complaints that he’s aware of.
Bates also questioned the community’s ties to Billy Sunday Field. Hansen said, "There is a great deal of sentiment for Billy Sunday Field, I don’t think anybody would question that." But, Hansen said a decision to move the baseball facility must be based on other factors, like getting the field out of a flood plain. Activities Director Dave McCaulley said the baseball schedule has been disrupted a number of times because the field is unusable due to flooding.
"So what is the best use of the dollar?" Hansen asked. He said his biggest concern for the present field is lighting, and he questioned an expenditure of nearly $100,000 on lighting at the Billy Sunday Field, if eventually that field location might be moved.
Bates questioned Hansen as to where the city is at on this issue right now.
"We’ll maintain it (Billy Sunday Field), but as we get into larger expenses if that happens as we go down the road, maybe it is time to revisit, does it stay there or get moved," he said. Hansen also noted that from the city’s perspective, it would be much easier to maintain a field that is at the SCORE park - where almost all the other city sports facilities are - than one that is on the other side of town.
Board members asked that Hansen to collect some information for them on what kind of money is being spent at this time to maintain the present baseball facility.
"If we’re going to be investing a lot of money on upkeep at Billy Sunday Field, it seems it will be hard to justify spending about 15 percent of the total cost (of a new facility) on lights (at BSF)," said board member Tom Maier.
"I think this (a new baseball facility) has merit to pursue," said Chitty. He told Hansen to tell the city that the school has an interest in seeing where this might go. "There’s a benefit to parks and rec, to Nevada (High School) baseball and to the community at large." But, Chitty noted, it would be hard for one entity to shoulder the project alone.