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Work begun on sports park expansion

The City of Bainbridge recently began preparing the future site of several new sports fields at the Bill Reynolds Sports Park.

The new fields and future site of basketball courts and parking are across the street from the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Bainbridge Public Works employees, who cut down trees and removed stumps from the property last year, have been excavating dirt and grading out several acres of land, which will comprise the third phase of Bill Reynolds Sports Park, named after the late, long-time Bainbridge mayor.

Although the new fields are primarily intended to accommodate growing, successful city-sponsored recreation leagues, Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said it’s also hoped that the abundance of fields in the same location will make the city a well-known site for hosting baseball/softball tournaments.

The City of Donalsonville, and to a lesser extent, Bainbridge and the City of Blakely, have been regularly hosting tournaments boasting teams from Alabama, Florida and other parts of Georgia, which in turn brings many people in to eat, shop and stay in motels.

Four of the baseball/softball fields are designed for younger players, with a length of 200 feet from home plate to the center-field fence; while four more fields can accommodate either youth or adult play, with a length of 300 feet.

Two multi-purpose fields, which could be used for soccer, football or other team sports, are larger than a football field at 262 feet long and 150 feet wide. Along the new phase’s frontage along Cox Avenue, 576 parking spaces, including 11 for vehicles with handicap permits, will be paved, along with five asphalt basketball courts.

Public Works employees will do almost all of the work, including the laying of approximately 3,000 feet of drainage pipe that will carry stormwater from the fields into holding ponds, Public Works Director Tommy King said.

Stormwater will also be carried underneath Cox Avenue to a catfish pond located behind phase 1 of the sports park, which dates back to the early 1990s, King said.

It hasn’t yet been determined whether the construction of a new building for scorers’ tables, concessions and restrooms will be done by city workers or contracted out, still, the rest of the work will keep them steadily busy for several months, King said.

“I believe in what Mayor Reynolds used to say, that [our city workers] can take on any project,” King said as he oversaw work being done at the site on Wednesday afternoon.

Enduring the hot, often dusty weather for almost two weeks now, city workers have been using several pieces of heavy construction equipment, including dump trucks, a backhoe, a motor grader (also used to pave city streets) and a dirt pan borrowed from the Decatur County Road Department.

City Engineer Jim York, who worked off an earlier site plan done by the Genesis Group of Tallahassee, Fla., figured out the topography that will be ideal for stormwater drainage on the large, low-lying site.

King and his crew used York’s measurements to excavate as much of 9 feet deep of earth from the back of the site, where a large holding pond will go.

Because other parts of the site were judged to be too low, the earth excavated by the backhoe is taken by the trucks and dumped a few hundred feet away, where it is smoothed out by the motor grader. Some places on the site were built up as much as 4-5 feet, King said. The dirt pan uses a blade that scrapes the ground and machinery that looks like a windmill of hoe blades to dig up 2-3 inches of dirt continuously, depositing it in a large pan, which stores the earth until it is ready to be dumped.

King said work will progress on the new ball fields until York and Hobby give the OK to construct three double-lane boat “mega-ramps” at the Earle May Boat Basin.

The boat ramps will take about two to three months to complete; city officials hope to have the mega-ramps ready by next April, around the time when two major bass-fishing tournaments are scheduled to be held out of the Boat Basin.

The basketball courts should be ready by the end of this year, while the other fields will be ready by the time baseball and softball play begins next May.