City officials are ready to solicit bids to renovate the ball fields at Jack C. Fisher Park with the intent of starting work in the fall and having the fields, and other improvements, completed in May.

"We should put the bids out by the middle of July, with the intent of starting work in mid-October," city Parks Director Amanda Rogers said Thursday.

The plan calls for installing synthetic material on the fields in the Owensboro Softball Complex, with the material coving the infield from the edge of the infield to the backstop, Rogers said. The outfields will remain grass.

The change is needed to help the city maintain its baseball and softball tournament industry. Rogers said the city once cornered the regional market but now faces strong competition for sports tourism dollars.

"We draw a lot of visitors to our community each year with that location," Rogers said. Having synthetic material on the infields will make the fields ready to use faster after rain events.

"When we get much rain, our fields hold water," Rogers said because the fields don't have a drainage system or crews to cover the fields with tarps during showers.

"Synthetic will puts us in a situation where even if we have rain ... we should be able to get most of our playing in" unless there are severe rainstorms, she said.

Assistant City Manager Lelan Hancock said the parking lots at the park will also be expanded and new batting cages will be installed.

The Owensboro Softball Complex could be given a new name since the facility is regularly used for baseball, Rogers said.

"The park's name will never change ... but the facility name may be different," Rogers said.

Hancock said the work will be done in three phases with an estimated cost of $3 million.

The park was created 31 years ago, "so it was time for a renewal and a re-do," Hancock said. The work on the fields will help the city remain a contender in the competitive market of sports tourism.

"I think this gives us a competitive edge to compete for those tournaments," Hancock said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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