Newton School Board members are moving forward with a proposal to build a new Cardinal ballpark after receiving updated cost estimates and feedback from its board, which recommended adding more features and an artificial turf playing surface for year-round use.
Though the school board didn’t finalize all the details of the baseball field during their June 13 meeting, members largely agreed that they wanted to move forward with the project, which is now expected to cost more than $3.1 million. If the pieces fit together correctly, the project could be complete by June 2023.
At least that’s what the school board hopes. Although they voted 6-0 to go ahead with the baseball field project, the finer details of the project are still up for debate. Rachelle Hines, a partner at FRK Architects + Engineers, said it was possible to put the project out to tender in September.
“We would start construction as soon as possible,” Hines said. “It would be tight for this June schedule, but doable. The other option is … to write it out early next year and have it ready by fall 2023. With that, it would be ready for the following season.”
As the committee presented its findings and recommendations, school board member Travis Padget asked if there was enough community support for a bond. Tim Bloom, director of business services, said the district could use existing funds but it would likely require a shift to other projects.
“I just want to make sure we’re doing it right and not rushing it to get there by spring,” Padget said. “If we can’t build it by spring, do we have support to then get it done for next year to make it complete and right?”
Darin Tisdale, a committee member who also teaches at Berg Middle School and has coached for Newton, said the community has shifted a bit to be more progressive and wants to modernize its facilities. Tisdale recalled past experiences with Berg Middle School’s Bond Committee.
“We had a lot of retirees in this community with a lot of fixed income from Maytag. We don’t have that many retirees,” he said. “It seems like we’ve got more younger people going, ‘Let’s make our community look like this, and if it costs a little bit out of my pocket, let’s do it.'”
COMMITTEE GIVES FEEDBACK TO BOARD
Last month, the school district formed a committee to finalize details of the proposed baseball field to be built south of the softball field parking lot near HA Lynn Stadium. Scott Bauer, a Newton parent and committee member, suggested that the consensus was to have a multipurpose field.
Coupled with the grass playing surface, Bauer said this would prevent the field from becoming a “one-season-one-sport” facility. Bauer cited Southeast Polk High School’s baseball field as an example, calling it one of the busiest facilities in the district.
“During the spring, newcomers practiced soccer on it. And after freshmen football was done with it, there were fall baseball leagues. There was soccer practice when there was an athletics meeting… It just becomes multifunctional,” Bauer said.
Even the committee’s baseball purists spoke out in favor of the turf, which they say provides additional field for other athletic teams in the district. The pitch also means fewer practice and game cancellations, less maintenance throughout the season and less work to prepare for games. But it costs a lot more.
Committee members also recommended that the district construct a “complex” concept with its proximity to the softball field that could include additional phases to include tennis courts for the facility. They also said it would increase attendance at softball and baseball games.
Newton is also the only team in its conference whose baseball and softball fields are not adjacent. Bauer said it was a disservice to Cardinals baseball and softball players, as well as parents and fans, that they couldn’t switch between games. Being across the street would allow fans and support both sports.
“I think it’s also good to have as many facilities in one place as possible,” Bauer told school board members at their meeting last week. “Because when people come in and see one facility, they see multiple facilities and that can always attract people. Those are a few of the main reasons.”
Complementing a school’s athletics with world-class facilities is nothing new. The committee suggested that several metro-area school districts pool resources due to the associated draw at athletic facilities and possibly even encourage family enrollment.
The committee told the Newton School Board it wanted a baseball field with a concession stand, restrooms, storage or locker rooms under the bleachers, several batting cages, and a tall fence surrounding the complex. Some of these options could be withheld at different stages.
Ultimately, despite some objections, the school board was largely in favor of doing away with the restrooms and the concession stand.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com