Gunnison High School ball fields to get major upgrades
By Megan Batterman
GUNNISON—Plans for a much needed facelift have been completed for the Gunnison Valley High School ball fields, and construction on phase one will begin in the next week or two.
Jared Anderson, athletic director at the school, also serves on the committee involved in improving the ball fields.
“It’s a go,” he said. “We are just waiting on the contractor now.”
Anderson explained that the project will be completed in two phases, with the first phase taking place this year and the second phase beginning next summer or early next fall.
The committee and the recreation board took into consideration concerns that have been raised by the community, from the need for expanded ball field size and parking to accommodate buses, to seating for fans and making the facilities as accessible as possible for all community members.
The current facilities have not been updated for 35 years and have fallen into disrepair. Anderson said the facilities are not safe and do not meet the needs of the communities that use them.
Some of the major safety concerns identified at the existing facilities were outdated electrical boxes, scoreboards, unsafe bleachers, old bathroom facilities and parking lots not built to accommodate the large number of busses that are present for large tournaments.
According to plans, the updated facility will have new nets, wider pathways from the ball fields, improved access to the soccer field and revamped bathroom facilities. The dugouts will be rebuilt, fences replaced and planters added to provide greenery and vegetation to beautify the space.
A new playground area will also be added south of the baseball fields for younger children to enjoy. Gunnison Mayor Bruce Blackham sees this addition, in particular, as a huge asset for the ball field complex.
The project will cost an estimated $140,000 and will be funded by the school district with supplementary funds coming from the Lions Club. The estimated cost includes cement work, irrigation, new dugouts, netting and other items to bring the ball field complex up to par with other fields such as the ones in St. George and Cedar City.
The committee looked extensively at ball field complexes around the state in order to get an understanding of what improvements were needed in Gunnison.
According to Dr. Richard Nay, who serves on the Gunnison Valley Recreation Board, the Lions Club raised $14,000 during a silent auction on July 2. Items such as guns, a swing set, quilts, personal photography sessions and a custom-made wooden play house with wood donated by Satterwhite Log Homes of Gunnison were up for sale.
The school district is expected to match that $14,000 donation.
Not everyone in Gunnison, however, is thrilled with the ball field renovations. Several citizens brought up their concerns at a recent Gunnison City Council meeting.
While the majority of citizens are on board with the plans, dissenting voices are concerned that too many resources are used on baseball and softball in the city and would like to see those resources being used for other endeavors instead.
Longtime resident Kelly Fewkes attended the meeting and made clear his distaste for the project. While the idea itself isn’t inherently bad, Fewkes told the council, he is concerned about the idea of bringing in so many out-of-towners for tournaments while offering them very little in the way of overnight accommodations, a concern that Blackham said he understood and acknowledged.
The plans are moving forward despite some objections, Blackham said.
“The fact is the school district is going ahead with the improvements,” he said.
Anderson said he is excited about the new project. He feels that the improved facilities will benefit Sanpete County, allowing the county to host more tournaments and teams, bringing revenue to the community and providing more opportunities for local athletes as well as youth and summer programs.