Officials: Softball complex will be unlike anything in region

Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer.com | geans@messenger-inquirer.com Kevin Gordon with Vescio Sports Fields out of Lexington uses a laser to check the grade of one of the four ballfields Wednesday at Jack C. Fisher Park.

The $2.1 million Jack C. Fisher Softball Complex upgrade is on schedule and will prove to be unique among sister facilities, according to Owensboro Parks and Recreation officials.

In October of last year, city officials put a contract together for Louisville-based design company Land Design & Development Inc. to draw construction plans and estimate costs for the project.

In March, officials met in a work session with LD&D to nail down the project and begin the initial bidding out process, said Amanda Rogers, parks director.

"LD&D did the design for the four synthetic fields, drainage, irrigation, etc.," she said. "This project is several different pieces -- it isn't the ballfields themselves. There are several separate projects to revamp. It is a significant overhaul of the amenities and the facility. We are really looking at the playing surface and those things that make it more appealing."

The project, aside from sprucing up the facility's maintenance building and the acquisition of equipment, primarily focuses on expanding the front and back parking lot of the park, redesigning the ticket entrance as well as transitioning the four fields into synthetic turf, she said.

"The front parking lot area, which is typically the Fisher Park lot, is complete," she said. "That particular piece cost $127,778 and expanded the lot from 35 spaces to 103. That lot is heavily used during the day and as overflow during tournaments or games. We really got a bang for our buck."

Currently, Lexington based Vescio's SportsFields, an athletic field design-build, renovation and maintenance service for both synthetic and natural fields, is beginning the work to install the new synthetic turf and the facility.

Their $1 million bid, with a $150,000 contingency, will go toward Vescio's work toward removing preexisting soil, erosion control, utilities, steel staking, identifying areas of underground water, electrical outlet potential as well as irrigation controls, Rogers said.

"Removing the soil from the four infields was a three-and-a-half week task," she said. "They are working on laying the main drainage lines under each field to the main line. Prior to the synthetic being laid, there will also be geotextile that will help direct flow and ensure water is drained outside of the field."

Once the preparation to ensure water flow is maintained is complete, they will begin to nail down the nailer board and pin system, she said.

"The process is similar to laying a carpet," she said. "People will start to see that work being done in the next couple of weeks after all of the pipework is done along with the electrical work. Vescio is definitely one of the more reputable synthetic installers in our region. Their work can be seen at University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky as well as Murray State. They have been very helpful for a community where we don't have any synthetic in our parks system."

She said she hopes to have the bid out no later than the beginning of 2020 for the back parking lot and new ticketing entrance.

"Right now the lot has 290 spots," she said. "Our design will increase that number by 64 new spots. Aside from increasing parking, we are also going to create a more pedestrian walkway from the parking lot all the way to the fifth field (practice field). Along with this project, we are creating a larger and more welcoming entrance once you walk through the fenced gate. We are calling it Home Plate Plaza, it will be in the shape of home plate. When they see it, they will know it is Fisher. There is nothing like it in our region."

While completely revamping four natural fields into synthetic, creating a new irrigation and filtration system, redesigning parking lots as well as the new protocols for maintaining synthetic turf may seem difficult, the biggest focus now centers around aesthetics, she said.

"Right now, the biggest decisions center around what it will all look like," she said. "The layout, the color and how all of these pieces come together. That piece is the most exciting and the most stressful. Once that turf is ordered, it is what we get, so we have to be as thoughtful as possible."

At the end of the day, Rogers, along with her partners and city officials, want the final result to make the community as proud as possible, she said.

"This facility will do a lot for Owensboro," she said. "Mother Nature has not been kind to us for the past few years, which has affected our schedule. We have lost more tournaments in the past few years than in years past (and) the synthetic will allow us to extend seasons. We want to be able to play in March and November.

"Travel baseball and softball is a big industry and we want to capitalize each year and provide a venue for those that want to play in and visit Owensboro. We are striving to do the best we can for our economy and the taxpayer that has an interest in baseball and softball."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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