No progress in Cardinal Park

Gary B. Gray • Jan 5, 2012 at 11:22 PM

It was like deja vu all over again.

At last month’s City Commission meeting, the last few words spoken regarding the dire need to upgrade Cardinal Park, specifically its aging left field wall, included the fact that City Manager Pete Peterson would be looking into alternate bids and reporting back to commissioners Thursday.

That didn’t happen.

“I thought the last time we met we asked for the price on the wall to be rebid?” Mayor Jeff Banyas asked Peterson.

Peterson had no immediate answer concerning the only bid on the table — the more than $162,000 offer from Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors to demolish the existing wall and build about 390 feet of new wall.

“I’m very disappointed,” Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin said. “It’s my understanding we were going to rebid it, especially considering the time constraints we’re under. I don’t think we can get it bid and get it done (before either Science Hill High School or the Johnson City Cardinals need the field). I’m disappointed in that nothing has gone forward in the past three weeks. I just don’t see how we can get it done.”

Architect Tony Street stepped to the podium and told commissioners: “I have the drawings ready, and we can put it out to bid tomorrow — just to replace the fence only — and this could be done immediately.”

And that’s exactly where things stand as far as upgrades to Cardinal Park.

Street is expected to get back to Peterson and commissioners as soon as he has alternate bids.

Rentenbach, which is building the new Memorial Park Community Center, originally offered up a $707,000 bid to build the wall, install new light poles, install batting cage netting and perform electrical work. That didn’t fly. Their $162,000 bid for the new fence also was not well received.

Commissioners were facing nearly $1 million in costs at Cardinal Park to regrade the field, build a streetscape in front of the structure and make other necessary repairs to bring things up to snuff.

The back-to-back Appalachian League champs’ first home game is June 19, but Science Hill High School’s varsity baseball team also uses the field and there is concern that the process may be too time-consuming. Last month, commissioners also agreed that a special called meeting may be needed to move this effort along a little faster.

That hasn’t happened.

A minor league facility survey by Kansas City, Mo.-based Gould Evans Associates was conducted in July and sent in September to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball’s office in New York.

The results showed the 55-year-old facility was not in compliance with a number of Professional Baseball Agreement standards. The PBA includes contractual obligations between Major League Baseball and minor league general managers, operators and players.

“The Cardinals will continue to play there (Cardinal Park) as long as they choose to,” Peterson said as Thursday’s discussion kicked off.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a development agreement with North Carolina’s Coal Yard Restoration LLC, to build a 56-unit apartment complex at 1150 W. State of Franklin Road.

The property is located between University Parkway and Lake Street near the Millennium Centre. The multi-family development will provide student housing for East Tennessee State University.

The agreement conveys 1.74 acres to the developer. The property, which had been used by East Tennessee State University, was purchased from the state and both entities support the request. Developers Thursday declined to say what they paid the state for the property.

A concept plan was not required because the property Thursday was rezoned from I-2 (Heavy Industrial) to B-3 (Supporting Central Business). However, the agreement requires the developer to construct the apartments as proposed. Johnson City’s Ken Ross Architects designed the structures.

A required neighborhood meeting was held Aug. 2; no one attended.

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