“As soon as we get the weather and we get the materials, we’re ready to go to work,” Creston head baseball coach Steve Birchard said about renovating the Creston High School baseball field.
Following last year’s tornado, the baseball field has been unplayable for a number of reasons.
But Birchard and Creston activities director Jeff Bevins plan to have the field renovated enough to be able to host the first home game of the season on May 23 against Nodaway Valley.
With little work being done to the field to this point, there has been some growing concern as to whether or not the field would be ready for the 2013 season.
One of the biggest obstacles thus far has been the weather.
With the cold weather and the rain, it has made it nearly impossible to start work on the necessary renovations to make the field playable this season.
The pressing issues currently are constructing the backstop and the fencing around the dugouts.
“We’ve got to hope for some nice weather and start being in a situation where we can put some block down,” Bevins said. “We have to get the backstop going and finish off the fences to the dugouts.”
Des Moines Steel and Fencing has been hired to do the fencing construction, but with the wet conditions, have been unable to use their crane which is needed to set the poles of the backstop.
“They’re ready to deal with that, it’s just getting the weather to be able to come down and do it,” Bevins said. “They have a crane they have to help install the poles of the backstop, but right now that thing would just sink. But when things get going, it’s not projects that take weeks to complete. It’s just being able to get to it.”
After the poles for the netting and backstop have been set, the next step is to lay the brick for the backstop, Birchard explained.
Bevins noted the brick backstop will sit about 30 inches high, allowing for spectators seated in lawn chairs behind the backstop to easily see over the top of the brick.
After the brick is set, the fencing company will return to complete the netting part of the backstop and to finish the fencing around the dugouts.
“When we get that part done, then it will actually be playable,” Birchard said. “Then we’ll have our bullpen and our press box to work on, which are not necessities to play. Hopefully all that stuff gets done by May 23.”
Like Birchard said, the bullpen and press box are not necessary renovations to be able to play this year, but are things he would like to get done.
A plan is currently in place for the press box, which would move it back from its previous location, to the top of the hill near the practice football field, back away from the first base line.
Bevins said the current plan calls for a two-level press box to be built, with the lower level serving as a storage area for football and baseball, which is part of the reasoning for moving the press box closer to the practice football field.
The materials for the press box have been ordered, Birchard said.
Birchard also noted the home bullpen is not totally demolished yet, but that will need to be done at some point in order to build a new one.
In the meantime, the Panthers will use the visiting bullpen and the game mound for pitching exercises.
The dugouts have also been a major area of concern, but the current plan calls for the fencing to be put around the dugouts this spring in time for the 2013 season, and then for the dugouts to be renovated for the 2014 season.
Birchard said he has a vision of what he’d like the baseball facility to look like and feels the current plan is a step in the right direction.
But, he has some plans for both the facility and for gameday experiences he hopes to work on.
“We’ve got a lot of people willing to do the hard work and raise funds or whatever it takes to make our place a first class facility we can be proud of,” Birchard said. “So that’s what we want to do. There’s no sense in sitting in a second class facility if you’ve got people willing to do the work and to do what it takes to make it nice.”
And if everything pans out and the necessary renovations are done in time for the home opener on May 23, Birchard said he’d like to have a celebration.
“I’m hoping for that first game we really do have everything we’re going to do this year done, and it would be nice to have sort of a grand opening, opening day sort of celebration with it,” he said. “I’ve got some ideas about what I want to see. I really would like to create a little more enthusiasm for baseball and get the kids out and watch and make it fun for them.
“Have some fun things for them like some minor league teams do,” Birchard continued. “I know we can’t do all that stuff, but just something to make the kids have more fun at the park and come out and support their friends. I’m excited.”