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Town Rearticulates Field Of Dreams Planning

FARMVILLE – Given the realities and practicalities of scheduling and finances, artificial turf will not be installed prior to next summer's minors and majors state baseball tournaments at the Field of Dreams, according to Town Manager Gerald Spates, who continues to believe turf makes more long-term sense than sticking to grass.

“We were trying to see how we could fit it in with the timeline, both of ball that's going on now, ball that's scheduled for the spring, and of course we're talking about the two state tournaments that are going to be held here,” Spates told The Herald in a phone interview this week. “So in looking at those and trying to do all this work we just found it was impossible to do.”

The Town has decided to plug and re-seed the fields to prepare it for next summer's play, and then will be guided by a master plan developed by Hurt & Profitt “so we know where we're going,” the town manager said of the facility purchased by the Town from STEPS in 2010 for $770,854,20 to ensure the Prince Edward Farmville Youth Association (PEFYA) could continue using the property for its ball games.

Spates said “aesthetic improvements” will be attempted prior to the state tourney play, rather than “going in and rebuilding the whole facility.

“So what we're doing, we're going to re-seed the ball fields, get those ready, and what we might do over the next four or five years is start to take a field a year where we could shift that field to another one and work the schedule out.”

Spates said he continues to “think there's some merit” in artificial turf fields.

“Of course the drawback is the expense,” he continued, “but by going to the artificial fields you can get multi-use out of them where you can play baseball one time of the year and then play soccer, which a lot of places have gone to doing that.”

When the Town announced and explained the hiring of Hurt & Profitt last month, Spates told The Herald, “I think one of the key things is…Hurt & Proffitt was real big on artificial turf. And the thing with artificial turf is we can run the softball program on the same field….You started to see people going to artificial turf. It's a lot easier to maintain…”

The Town appeared definitely set on artificial turf, with an attempt to get at least one field installed with the turf prior to next summer's tournaments.

But there has been a rearticulation of the Town's plans, with Spates telling Town Council during last week's work session that “there seems to be some confusion on it and I'm probably the one who caused the confusion so I'll to clarify it.”

Hurt & Profitt, he said, “is going to come back to council at our December meeting with the layout of a master plan and also put some costs associated with the master plan. The master plan is going to be an overall picture of the field, with recommendations on what we need to do.

“Not everything's going to be done. It's going to be staggered over a five or six-year period,” Spates continued. “There's no way we're going to be able to do everything at one time. It would be nice to do it but with the schedule and everything that's going on with ball out there there's no way you can do it. You got them playing ball out there now. They're going to be playing in the spring. So your timeframe for being able to do this stuff (is limited).

“So…we're getting ready to plug and re-seed all the fields (based on engineers' recommendations) so the fields are in good shape for the spring. They definitely need it and they need some work on them. So that's where we are on the Field of Dreams,” he told Town Council members.

Spates was asked at that point of the work session by The Herald if that means there will not be any artificial turf in place for the state tournament next summer.

“No, I think it will be grass for the state tournament,” he said, as council members listened. “Really, it's not practical to get it done this quickly. If you can work the season out, say next year during the summer schedule or after the summer schedule when you have the fall league to do that work in between that. That's going to be up to council. I'm anxious to the see the master plan and see what they recommend.”

Council member Donald L. Hunter responded by noting it was “important” for the Town “to say we're not going to stop any ball and continue on the fields the way they are…There was some confusion and I'm glad you cleared that up.”

During this week's interview with The Herald, Spates was specifically asked what was the most accurate statement regarding artificial turf at the Field of Dreams-that one or more artificial turf fields will definitely be installed or that the Town is considering one or more artificial turf fields?

“I would say that the Town's considering it. I'd hate to throw it out there that 'Hey, we're going to do two artificial fields.' I think it's the way to go in the future,” the town manager said. “(But) whether or not we can afford to go that way down the road…”

Will be a decision made later.

On the subject of financing, Spates noted the Town is making a bid for grant funding, foundation money and, he added, “you never know, there might be somebody in the community that would want to step up and donate some of the money.”

The master plan, meanwhile, is “the smart thing to do. Then you've got an idea for future development out there.”

Of paramount importance in the short-term, Spates noted during last week's October work session, “There are some safety issues out there that we need to address. Handicap-accessibility is very poor out there. The Town owns it. We have to have it handicap-accessible…(or if something happens) we're going to get sued.

“There's some things we need to address right away and there's some things that can wait three or four years down the road. But you need a guide to go by,” he said of the master plan, “so that you don't do one thing and come back two years later and do something else.”

During Wednesday night's Town Council meeting, Spates again touched on the upgrade plans and briefed council members on a meeting with PEFYA officials.

“We had a meeting with three of the representatives,” said Spates, who was accompanied at that gathering by council members Hunter and Tommy Pairet, “to talk about the Field of Dreams.”

The Town's recreation director Chris Bolt also attended because Farmville's Department of Recreation will oversee use of the field, scheduling and upkeep, with PEFYA apparently set to continue operating the concession stand.

“I thought, basically, it was a pretty good meeting. I think they understand where we're coming from,” Spates told Town Council, “and what we want to do and what we plan to do with the fields. We may phase in the concession stand (renovations) over a year period, or leave it like it is. They've agreed that they would run the concession stand any time that there's an event, whether it's a PEFYA event or some other event like Chris is having, or some other organization.”

Hunter added, “They also understand the improvements that are needed for the fields. It seems like they received everything else well, especially since the concession stand is still theirs.”

Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon then asked Hunter, “you all were comfortable with the way they received it?”

“Very comfortable,” Hunter answered.