June 27, 2022

Board members ready to aim for the fences with updated sporting facility

Newton school district moves forward with new baseball field

Engineers drawings show how the new Cardinal baseball field might look in the area south of the softball field parking lot near H.A. Lynn Stadium in Newton.

Newton school board members are moving forward with a proposal to build a new Cardinal baseball field after receiving updated cost estimates and feedback from its committee, which recommended adding other features and a synthetic turf playing surface for more year-round use.

Although the school board didn’t hash out all the details of the baseball field during its June 13 meeting, members largely agreed they wanted to move forward with the project, which is now anticipated to cost more than $3.1 million. If the pieces fall together correctly, the project could be finished by June 2023.

At least that is what school board members hope. Even though they voted 6-0 to move forward with the baseball field project, the finer details of the project are still up for discussion. Rachelle Hines, a partner with FRK Architects + Engineers, said it is possible to put the project up for bid in September.

“We would get going on construction as soon as possible,” Hines said. “It would be tight for that June timeline, but feasible. The other option is … to bid it out early next year and have it complete in fall of 2023. So it would be ready for the following season.”

When the committee delivered its findings and recommendations, school board member Travis Padget asked if there was sufficient community support for a bond. Tim Bloom, director of business services, said the district could use on-hand funds but it would likely require shifting around other projects.

“I just want to make sure we’re doing it right and not speeding it along to get there for the spring,” Padget said. “If we can’t get it built by spring do we have support to still do it then for the next year to do it full and do it right?”

Darin Tisdale, a member of the committee who also teaches at Berg Middle School and has coached for Newton, said the community has shifted a little bit to be more progressive and wants to modernize its facilities. Tisdale recalled past experience with the Berg Middle School bond committee.

“We had a lot of retirees in this community with a lot of fixed income from Maytag. We don’t have as many retirees,” he said. “It seems like we have more younger folks who are into ‘Let’s make our community look like this and if it costs a little bit out of my pocket, let’s do it.’”

COMMITTEE GIVES FEEDBACK TO BOARD

Last month the school district formed a committee to hash out more details of the proposed baseball field, which would be built south of the softball field parking lot near H.A. Lynn Stadium. Scott Bauer, a Newton parent and a member of the committee, suggested the consensus was a to have a multi-use field.

Coupled with the turf playing surface, Bauer said it would prevent the field from becoming a “one season, one sport” facility. Bauer used the baseball field at Southeast Polk High School as an example, calling it one of the most used facilities in the district.

“During the spring, freshmen football practiced on it. And then after freshmen football was done with it there were fall baseball leagues. There were soccer practices when there was a track meet going on … It just becomes multi-functional,” Bauer said.

Even the baseball purists of the committee argued in favor of the turf, which they said provides additional field for other sports teams in the district. The turf also means fewer cancellations of practices and games, less maintenance throughout the season and less work to prepare for games. But it does cost a lot more.

Committee members also recommended the district build a “complex” concept with its proximity to the softball field, which could see additional phases to include tennis courts for the facility. They also said it would increase the attendance of both softball and baseball games.

Newton is also the only team in its conference whose baseball and softball fields are not next to each other. Bauer said it is a disservice to Cardinal baseball and softball players, as well as parents and fans, that they are not able to go between games. Being across the road would allow fans and to support both sports.

“Getting as many facilities as we can in one location, I think, is good, too,” Bauer said to school board members at their meeting this past week. “Because when people come in and see one facility they see multiple facilities and that can always attract people. Those are a couple of the big reasons.”

Supplementing a school’s athletics with top-notch facilities is nothing new. The committee suggested several metro area school districts are pooling their resources into sporting facilities because of the draw it brings, possibly even encouraging enrollment for families.

The committee told the Newton school board it would like a baseball field with a concession stand, restrooms, storage or dressing rooms under the bleachers, multiple batting cages and a tall fence surrounding the complex. Some of these options could be held off at different phases.

Ultimately, the school board was largely in favor of holding off on restrooms and the concession stand, despite some objections.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.