More than 30 years after they were built, the ball diamonds at McCulley-Robertson Recreation Park are showing their age despite regular annual maintenance to the facility.
The diamonds are home to both minor and recreational leagues – the Muskoka Hornets; Men’s, Ladies, Mixed and Senior Slopitch; and Men’s Fastball – and see heavy use in the evenings and on many weekends throughout the summer.
The Town of Huntsville held a public meeting on June 14 to gather together these user groups and discuss both the facility’s aging infrastructure and safety concerns.
As a result of that meeting, Town staff presented a report at the July 26 General Committee meeting outlining their recommendations for improvements at the diamonds, including: replacing existing diamond lighting with LED fixtures, and adding parking lot lighting for security; replacing backstops; reinstalling warning tracks for safety; installing clay boxes in below the grade of the infield in areas of high wear to reduce surface deterioration and improve drainage; and regrading the outfield.
Director of Operations and Protective Services, Steve Hernen, said that staff are not recommending a request from the Muskoka Hornets for a grass infield on one of the diamonds at this time. “The usage in the studies, it doesn’t warrant it,” he said, noting that a grass infield would also require irrigation. “The Hornets have been playing quite successfully on the existing diamond… But if we put a grass infield in, the other (users) will ask us to create another diamond because they need the four diamonds.”
Councillor Dan Armour said he was happy to see the issue come forward. “The ball diamonds have been a huge part of this town for a long time. I remember when they were built in the 1980s and how excited people were.”
Before it will seek proposals for the needed work, the Town will retain a landscape architect to “bring together the various components of the project and make recommendations complete with unit pricing, time to complete, scheduling of all work in phases with the emphasis on minimal interruption to seasonal play on the ball diamonds,” according to the RFP issued this week. The landscape architect will also assist with evaluation of construction contractors during procurement and contract management during the build phase. (See the RFP for the landscape architect here.)
The technical specifications and drawings are to be completed in 2017 so that renovation work can begin in the fall of 2018, pending council approval.
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