Despite 26 rain delay days, the baseball field project at SCORE — a joint project between the Nevada School District and city of Nevada, and future home of Cubs’ high school baseball — isn’t too far off its completion deadline.
Dave Kroese, Nevada Schools director of buildings and grounds, said last week that the rain set things back just a few weeks. Instead of substantial completion by mid-October, they are now looking at substantial completion by the end of October.
“We’re confident that we’re going to be able to play baseball here (next summer),” Kroese said, but just in case, he added, the city will keep Billy Sunday Field on the west side of town just as it is for now. “Because that’s our backup plan…our insurance.”
In looking at the planning for a new baseball field in Nevada, Kroese said it all began 20 years ago. “In the original blueprints (for SCORE), back in 1997, there was a baseball field in those plans,” he said. And through all the flooding of Billy Sunday Field during the past 20 years, he added, “the conversation (for a new field) has always been there.”
Kroese said that finally last year, the go-ahead on a new field happened as leaders in the school and city looked at the expense they were facing to improve the infrastructure of Billy Sunday Field. “You have lights in bad shape, and the infrastructure … getting new wiring to the park…that’s cost-prohibitive to spend in a flood plain,” he said.
Also, Kroese noted, the plans for a new field are finally coming true due to a great working relationship between the city and schools. “The cooperation between the city and school (at this time) is awesome. Our current administration (at the school) and their current administration (at the city) have the same vision. So this truly is a joint project.” Expense of the estimated $1.4 million base project is being shared between the school and city, with the school paying $955,000 and the city paying, $445,000. The school also added $96,504 in alternates to the project, which included concrete banding around the fence, additional outfield drainage, the team room addition to the home dugout and an additional sidewalk. The school used current and future sales tax revenue to pay for the project.
In looking at the work that has taken place this year at SCORE, Kroese said you first have to understand that there were two phases for this project. “We knew we had to get the grass growing (to be ready for the 2019 baseball season),” he said. “So, the area inside the playing fence was an early quote package to get the grass growing.” That work started in the spring with earth-moving. “We had to remove enough soil to get where we wanted (on soil),” he said. That included soil borings early on, moving a lot of dirt and then adding back in some of the really black dirt from the berm that sits at the edge of the park. The fact that the SCORE property was originally a farm meant there’s been a lot of dirt-moving over the years there, which helped provide a good foundation, Kroese said.
“We had a deadline of the end of May to get seed in the ground and we made that deadline.” However, with the big amounts of rain over the summer, “we’ve had to reseed a few times, and once again even in recent weeks.”
But, he’s confident that the grass will be ready for next summer, infield and all. The grass for the field is a mix of blue and rye. “Rye is a hardier grass, early to sprout,” Kroese said. “With irrigation, we can keep it going all summer.” The grass work at the field was contracted to the Iowa Cubs maintenance crew, which has a division that works on new fields. Along with the grass, the field will have Red Ball Diamond limestone from Bryan Rock Quarry at Shakopee, Minn.
The second phase of the baseball field project was “everything outside the playing fence.” That work started as soon as the playing field work ended, around the end of May.
Phase two, Kroese said, was contracted to Koester Construction out of Grimes. The first thing Koester did when it came in, Kroese said, was to put up fences to protect the work on the playing field and the other work being done. “We had to keep people off of it.”
At that point, the number-one priority was site utilities — bringing to the field fresh drinking water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and electrical. In the process, Kroese said, “you always find a few things to repair.”
After utility work was completed, and all the footings and foundations were in place, they built a retaining wall behind home plate and worked on the cabling for the back stop net, which will protect fans and others passing by from foul balls. Work also started on three buildings that will be at the field — two dugouts, the home one with a team room attached, and the concession/restroom building.
For those who wonder, the press box at this field will be part of the bleachers behind home plate, just like at Billy Sunday Field.
The home team dugout is being built along the third-base line, and it will include a team room, which is a dry locker room area that will basically, Kroese said, double the size of the home team’s dugout.
By the end of last week, crews were expected to be working on roofing of all three buildings.
The concessions/restroom building is located in the northwest corner of the baseball project area. That placement was really the only place they had the “real estate to put it,” Kroese said, but it is also a nice placement, he said, for parents who often work the stands to be able to have a front window that looks out over the field. The other nice thing about the restroom building in that corner is that it brings a real brick-and-mortar restroom to that area of the SCORE park, which has been without a concrete restroom for a number of years.
As he thinks about what has been most positive with the work that has happened and will soon be completed, Kroese said he has a couple thoughts. First and foremost, something he previously mentioned, is how the project has showcased the cooperation between the city and school.
Second, is the great “welcome to Nevada” that this project provides on the east side of the community to visitors who come in along 19th Street. The field will have some school branding added next spring, like a Cub paw on the back of the press box and Cub screens on the fences, but the project will also be made to fit in with the present look of the entire SCORE park. “We want to blend in, but yet be noticeable,” he said.
For those who still want to see Billy Sunday be utilized as a baseball field in the future — and there is a petition that has been started to do that for other baseball programs under the high school level — Kroese said he’ll leave that up to the administration of both the city and school. His focus is on overseeing the project at SCORE.
“When it’s all done, I think people will really appreciate the cooperation that school, city and community planning groups have gone through to make this a quality facility for the next 100 years.”