A softball diamond built within the last few years could require $50,000 in upgrades in order for the Greenfield High School team to host games as soon as 2014.
A scoreboard, fan seating and improved dugouts are just some of the amenities the diamond needs before the Hustlin’ Hawks could have home games at the high school.
The problem stems from a National Federation of State High Schools Association and WIAA regulation change coming down the pike that requires all varsity softball games to be held on fields with outfield fences at 185 to 235 feet from home plate.
Greenfield currently plays its high school softball games at Konkel Park, where permanent chain-link fences are set at 300 feet. Temporary fences at shorter distances have been put up in order for Greenfield to host WIAA tournament games, which already fall under the fence rule.
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According to Parks and Recreation Director Scott Jaquish, the city-run park has been the home of GHS games since at least the early 1990s, but the district is preparing for that marriage to possibly come to an end by the 2014 season when the new rule is implemented.
“The WIAA is making changes in its regulations and requiring fences now in order to continue to have competitions, and our understanding at Konkel Park, they’re not interested in putting up a fence,” Superintendent Conrad Farner said at a School Board meeting Nov. 12.
Jaquish, whose department does all the field maintenance and grass mowing at Konkel before and after every Hawk home game, said that’s not necessarily the case.
“I’ve never said no,” Jaquish said. “We’ve enjoyed hosting the girls games here as long as I can remember. We’ve had a great relationship with the coaching staff.
“We’ve always worked with (softball coach) Jack (Miller) or whomever to get the temporary fencing up (for tournaments) That takes a good amount of time, and we’ve accommodated, but it’s not the easiest thing to do.”
Jaquish said one to two district employees typically help his staff put up the district-provided temporary fence when needed. He said a “more permanent” temporary fence could be an option come 2014, but said funding for such a fence would “have to be worked out” with the district because the city would not have any other use for it.
“We’ve been completely open and completely receptive to accommodate that,” Jaquish said. “I thought we could work with the booster club. We will still work with them as far as utilizing that style of fence that goes up much easier and much quicker, if that’s what they want.”
Plenty of upgrades needed
If that’s not what the district wants, however, a lot of work will need to be done on the high school diamond, which was originally built for physical education use only, according to Farner.
“We always had in the back of our minds the idea that at some point we could use ours for game competition if we needed to down the road,” Farner said. “Our coach preferred to go to Konkel Park all these years, so there wasn’t any major desire to do that. But now it looks like we have to do it in order to be WIAA compatible.”
The superintendent said the field needs a scoreboard, electricity to and controls for the scoreboard, a press box of sorts and improved dugouts, which currently are small, fence-enclosed areas on either side of the field.
Two bigger issues are likely spectator seating and meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The field is on elevated land with limited areas for bleachers other than a small section of land directly behind the backstop. And the hilly terrain surrounding the diamond, as it exists now, would be difficult for spectators with disabilities to navigate.
It was also unclear when the junior varsity would play. That team currently plays at Konkel while the varsity team competes on an adjacent diamond. Farner suggested doubleheaders as a possibility.
School Board member Cathy Walsh said the field has been on the district’s buildings and grounds list of projects before but was surprised to see how much the upgrades would cost.
“I was kind of surprised that the amount was so large and wondered why, when the diamond is so new, it already needs upgrades,” Walsh said.
One of the advantages of holding games at Greenfield High School would be the revenue generated by concession sales. Currently, the Partners of Parks and Recreation, a non-profit organization, runs the concession stand for most games played at Konkel Park.
“If it’s at our diamond, we could use our concession stand and the booster club could generate some funds,” Walsh said.