Cardinal Park is not quite ready for the wrecking ball, but the City Commission Thursday night did not respond to a rundown of estimated costs for repair with open arms.
Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl reported that the home of the Johnson City Cardinals, the Appalachian League champs the past two years, needed major repairs if it was going to continue to survive continued poor marks by its big league parent organization, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The park was originally built in 1950.
City Manager Pete Peterson and Mayor Jeff Banyas stated clearly that the best home for the Appy League team is at East Tennessee State University’s new stadium when it is finished and that the costs to bring Cardinal Park up to snuff are just too much.
“I think it would be wise for the Cardinals to negotiate a deal with ETSU to play their home games at the university,” Peterson said.
Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors, the same company building the new Memorial Park Community Center, has offered up a $707,000 change order that includes building a new left field fence, the replacement of six light poles, practice netting and new electrical work.
Stahl, who labeled the playing field a “major issue,” said the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has estimated it would cost about $25,000 to dig up and put down a new surface. Add to that a proposed $225,500 upgrade by the Public Works Department and you’ve got five commissioners searching for reason why the big bucks should be poured into a stadium that may be best suited for use by Science Hill High School and some community events at a fraction of the cost.
Banyas called Rentenbach’s estimate “excessively ambitious.”
“What has me more concerned than anything is the coming 2013 budget,” said Vice Mayor Phil Carriger. “We do need to prioritize our spending.”
Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin said that he would not vote for a such an investment in the park, though he did favor some form of the $225,000 streetscape improvements that would tie into the new community center.
The closing of Lonnie Lowe Drive and its conversion to a pedestrian area has pretty much been a foregone conclusion and has been planned to tie in with a pedestrian area along the front of the new center.
Some changes have been incorporated into the plan, raising the total estimated price from about $165,500 to $225,500. The cost increase is associated with upsizing the amount of concrete to enlarge the size of a pedestrian plaza, which will include resurfacing of the entry ways into the ballpark, a bus pull-off area on Legion Street and a combined ticket and concession building. The estimated cost is for materials only. City crews would provide the labor.
The plan includes wrought iron fencing with brick columns, a brick and block wall, site demolition and storm pipes and catch basins.
Commissioners agreed to gather more detailed financial information and holding at least one workshop before making any decisions on improvements.
Established in 1950, Cardinal Park is a 5-acre sports field primarily used for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Appalachian League farm club, Science Hill High School and ETSU home baseball games. Amenities include a concession area, clubhouse, lighted baseball field, press box and restrooms.
Meanwhile, commissioners unanimously agreed to enter into contract negotiations with Florida-based ESA Renewables to work out a deal with a company to install and operate photovoltaic (solar panels) systems on up to 27 city-owned buildings, schools and other structures.
Time is money, however, because under TVA’s Generation Partners Program, the company would have to have all installation finished by April 17.
A revised proposal calls for ESA to install 200-kilowatt systems on 27 sites, including elementary schools, Keystone Community Center, Johnson City Public Library, the Municipal and Safety Building, as well as other schools and city buildings.
A preliminary proposal revealed an estimated annual savings to the city of more than $122,000 in each of the 10 years through which the program remains in play. Under the program, ESA would get an up-front credit of roughly 30 percent of the cost of installing the systems. TVA also would pay them 12 cents per kilowatt hour for all electricity generated by the systems that exceed the average usage.
Meanwhile, the city would be able to lock in current usage rates and receive a royalty consisting of a percentage of the savings. That amount would be negotiated with the company.
Johnson City’s Thomas Weems Architect was chosen to evaluate the 7,000-square-foot Seniors’ Center building for use as an alternate site for Juvenile Court. The firm was chosen from a list of five and now has roughly 10 weeks to complete an evaluation and report the findings to commissioners. This will include a visual schematic of how Juvenile Court can best be incorporated into the (soon to be former) Seniors’ Center.
The vote was 4-1 with Van Brocklin favoring Knoxville’s Cockrill Design & Planning, a firm that had been in the running for the architectural services of the new community center.