NEWTOWN SQUARE–Softball and baseball athletes at Marple Newtown High School may see a change in fields come spring. The Marple Newtown School Board voted unanimously on Tuesday–with school board member Sherry McAuliffe absent–for the construction of a new varsity softball field and a new varsity baseball field.
The main changes will include some swapping and the revamping of the varsity softball and varsity baseball fields.
The official motion read:
"To approve the construction of a new varsity softball field at the location of the current varsity baseball field at Marple Newtown High School, the construction of a new varsity baseball field at the location of the current 9th grade baseball field at the Administration Building property, and the construction of a cinder path to provide access to 14 acres of athletic fields at the high school. Construction to be completed by Spring of 2013."
According to John McDevitt, the school board's facilities and transportation committee chair, there are two safety issues at the varsity baseball field. In 2009, the Friends of Marple Newtown Baseball attempted to raise funds to properly equip the baseball team. However, according to McDevitt, they "ran out of money" and the team eventually lost a batting cage, the backstop was removed, and foul balls were hitting into the backyards of nearby homes.
"So, we made a quick fix by extending the net up there. It helped. The neighbor was getting 60 balls a season and then we told talked to them tonight and they're down 20 balls a season, but you're still getting the balls," explained McDevitt. "There were four insurance claims in the past year with that one property. That property isn't even being hit the hardest. The one that's being hit the hardest is down the first baseline."
The second issue is in regards to a long pathway that leads from the varsity softball field, over a hill, and to the varsity baseball field.
"On one side is a hill going up and the other is going down. It's a hazard and if you address it, you have to meet all these ADA requirements. The best idea is to get it off the hill," said McDevitt.
According to McDevitt, this past June a grandmother of one of the baseball players had slipped and broken her wrist on the path. McDevitt said the school board is proposing to push back the varsity baseball field about 30 feet, removing the long sidewalk on the hill and replacing it with a cinder path at the base of the hill.
"So nobody is walking on the sidewalk trying to get past kids that are sitting on it. When it's wet out there and someone is sitting on the sidewalk and puts their foot in the grass, I've seen people fall," said McDevitt.
Since a softball field has a shorter field, McDevitt said they could potentially set the varsity baseball field back 60 feet for the varsity softball field, leaving room for bleachers and the walking trail to go straight back to both fields.
The varsity baseball field would then move to the field next to the administration building on Media Line Road. And after renovations made at the new administration building, the space would be large enough to construct a legitimate PIAA-grade field, said McDevitt.
McDevitt said the new construction of the fields, including grading, bleachers, drainage, and backstops may total to approximately $300,000. The money will come out of the district's capital expenditures fund, in which $2.5 million went back into the capital reserve fund for the 2011-12 school year, according to McDevitt.
But before the district proceeds with the proposed athletic fields plan, a study needs to take place. On Tuesday night, the board also voted to pass a motion to hire Stephen Parks Associates of Hollidaysburg, PA, to draw specifications and bid documents for the purpose of bidding and receiving bids to construct a new baseball field and new softball field at a price not to exceed $20,000.
If all goes to plan, taking into account a budgeted cost and weather, the district hopes to get the new fields in by next spring in time for baseball and softball season. The backup plan will include leaving the softball field as is for the girls and finding an alternate baseball field for the boys.