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Johnson City takes step in fixing Cardinal Park

December 19th, 2011 6:55 am by Gary B. Gray

Johnson City takes step in fixing Cardinal Park

City commissioners were about to clock out of an unusually brisk 35-minute meeting Thursday, but just as City Manager Pete Peterson was wishing everyone a happy holiday, Commissioner Clayton Stout halted him and asked whether there was going to be any discussion on repairs to Cardinal Park.

“I know it’s not on the agenda, but I brought it up because I thought we needed to make a decision on this pretty quickly,” Stout said.

About 30 minutes later, commissioners agreed the city should get a bid package put together as soon as possible to replace the left-field fence at Cardinal Park. Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors, the company building the new Memorial Park Community Center, reconstructed the right- and center-field fence and replaced lighting systems. They also have given a price of $162,630 to tear down and replace the left-field fence. That does not include light poles, batting cage netting, electrical and other work the company included in a separate $700,000 proposal.

“There had been a lot of emails about the subject,” Stout said. “I think the fence is a must, but I’ll be looking closely at any other money we spend out there.”

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 the process may be too time consuming. At this point, a special called meeting may be necessary to move this effort along a little faster.

SHHS Athletic Director Keith Turner was not immediately available for comment.

“If we started tomorrow, it’s going to be close,” Tommy Burleson, the city’s construction agent said Thursday about constructing the new fence.

Mayor Jeff Banyas and Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin expressed an interest in the city doing the project inhouse to hold expenses down. They also inquired with Burleson as to the need for professional design services.

“Rentenbach already has designed the right-field fence, and my recommendation is that, since they have the specs, they’re there, their equipment is there — they are the best candidate to get to work on this,” Burleson said Friday as he prepared to meet with company representatives. “There is a great deal of people who think if you don’t get the price you want, you re-bid it. But Rentenbach’s price per linear foot for the leftfield fence is actually cheaper than the right-field fence.”

Peterson agreed and suggested the city step in to quicken the pace.

“If it helps, we can have public works over there now and knock down the old fence,” he said at the meeting. “That might save us $10,000 to $12,000.”

Last month, commissioners balked at the option of forking over nearly $1 million for major repairs required at Cardinal Park to bring the facility up to Minor League Baseball standards and discussed alternatives.

“Anything they can do will help with the left-field wall,” said Lee Sowers, who takes over as Johnson City Sports Foundation president on Jan. 1. “I do hope they continue with the same quality fence provided by Rentenbach. And, we’ve got a brand new scoreboard that’s ready to be installed once it’s completed.”

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 survey shows Cardinal Park does not have adequate seating capacity, lighting, playing surface quality, security, toilets, concessions and bullpen and dugout amenities. It does not have a public drinking fountain. Neither is the field “without defects or trip hazards that could jeopardize player safety,” according to the survey.

Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl has labeled the playing field a “major issue” and said it would cost an estimated $25,000 to replace the playing surface. Add to that a proposed $225,500 streetscape upgrade and the more than $700,000 bid by Rentenbach for the other fixes and the total is $1 million — a price commissioners are not comfortable with.

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