After months of discussion, work has finally begun on the infield turf project on Dey Field at Liberty Park Stadium.
Work began late last week, and Sedalia Parks and Recreation Director Mark Hewett said they expect the project to be complete in about seven weeks. During the September Park Board meeting, it was decided to award the bid to Mid-America Sports Construction for about $311,000. While it was about $1,000 more than the low bid, the groups who utilize Liberty Stadium liked the design best, Hewett said.
Crews began working last week to take advantage of nice weather to hopefully complete the project on time.
“They took all the old infield material, took it off and saved what we could and distributed it to Housel and Hubbard fields. We’ll stockpile whatever we need out of that,” Hewett said. “They’re taking clay out of the pitching mound, and we’ll stockpile it and use it. We have scavenged whatever field material we could and will have the rest hauled off.
“(The field will) have six, seven inches of dirt taken out then different levels of rock and drainage materials added in, then material over that. It’s pre-designed to drain two, three or four inches of rain an hour. It will drain really well and it will be directed accordingly to the best place to drain.”
Hewett said the new infield AstroTurf will cover 34,000 square feet, going fence to fence, although a normal infield is 25,000 square feet.
“We’re going extra,” he said. “… It will just go in behind the bullpen areas and dugouts where players stand and wear them out. It will stop at the outfield; that will be regular natural grass.”
The Park Board earlier this year committed to paying half of the project cost when it was estimated at $300,000, with the user groups paying the remaining half. Now that the bid has come in higher than estimated, Park Board decided during the September meeting to pay the difference.
“(Representatives from the user groups) came to the last board meeting — the board wanted assurance that money, $150,000, would be pledged before the project ended. They did give us that assurance, they do have the money secured,” Hewett said. “It will be given to us as a donation through the Liberty Park Fund, then we will pay the entire bill and they will reimburse us for their share.”
Many community members — including a few Park Board members and members of the Liberty Park maintenance team — aren’t too pleased with the idea of replacing natural grass with turf at the historic stadium, but Hewett said that decision will pay off in the long run.
“One hundred sixty-two games were played on that field last year, not counting practices, and each year the booster club helps us, Smith-Cotton helps maintain the field. We were spending $10,000 to $20,000 a year just on maintenance, sod, redoing material,” Hewett explained. “And then of course rainouts, we lost six or seven tournaments to rainouts this year.
“Scheduling was a big problem. UCM wanted to come in several times and use it and we couldn’t fit them in. June was tough for rain. Artificial turf almost eliminates any rainouts, unless there’s lightning at the time. You virtually play most of your games.”
Fall practices will also be an option now. Previously, fall practices were not permitted at Liberty Stadium to allow the grass to grow back in, a small window with Smith-Cotton’s baseball season starting March 1 each year. Now that artificial turf will be installed, fall practices can be hosted.
“That’s a big plus too,” Hewett said.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.