Field improvements to lure Bulldogs softball teams
     2013-07-25      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Doug Harris/Gering Citizen - One of two softball diamonds in Oregon Trail Park that is being considered for adaptation for competitive softball at the high school level. 
City, GGSA, Gering schools working to join forces for speedy facility transition

Three Gering entities are joining forces to perform a fast and furious effort that would have the Gering High School softball team playing in the city by the time the Bulldogs’ home season begins Sept. 3.

“We’re 95 percent sure that we’re going to get this done,” Gering City Council member Dan Smith said following a Thursday meeting of the Gering City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee at Gering City Hall in an effort to discuss improvements to two fields at Oregon Trail Park.

Pending funding approval, which includes the Gering City Council’s approval of a $10,000 matching grant, the grass infields at least one of the fields of the Oregon Trail Park Complex will be excavated and replaced with the clay-based dirt product familiarly known by its brand name, Diamond Pro.

Financing of the project stems from the Keno matching grant and includes input and involvement from the Gering Girls Softball Association and Gering Public Schools.

Robert Godinez of the GGSA brought forth the field improvement proposal so GGSA play took place on the dirt infields, with all renovations in place for the season that begins in May 2014.
The GGSA had seven tons of Diamond Dry purchased, but some of it has been used on the Carpenter Center fields in Terrytown — where the Gering High School softball teams have played in past years.
“It’s important for girls to be able to start playing on regulation fields with dirt infields as early as they can in competition,” Godinez added.

The project’s initial priorities are to meet the needs in luring the Gering softball program to Oregon Trail Park and having the Bulldog softball team playing in the city limits of Gering for the fall season.

Two fields, Field 4 near the National Guard Armory, and Field 5, near the Gering swimming pool, are the likely candidates for such transition. Field 4 was noted for having access to locker room facilities, while Field 5 was given a nod for having better adjacent parking area.

Ultimately, which field will gain immediate attention will depend on the strength of the existing light systems to adequately provide enough candle power for night games.

During Thursday’s meeting, Ron Doggett of the City of Gering Maintenance Department said he could test the candle power of both fields’ lights to determine which field would receive priority treatment in the transition project.

“Hopefully it’s adequate,” Smith said of either field’s lighting. “and if it isn’t, then hopefully some minor changes (in light adjustment) will make it adequate.”

Smith said the field lighting would eventually need upgrading, a project tagged at about $55,000.

The fields would also require a temporary, vinyl breakaway fence that would be installed in the outfield and meet the fast-pitch outfield dimensions of about 200 feet. The breakaway fencing also can be used to fill gaps in the chain-link fencing of the fields’ backstops and foul lines.

Smith said that a Wednesday meeting with new Gering Superintendent Bob Hastings and the school board’s finance committee revealed that an existing outfield, breakaway fence — part of which is being used at Gering Memorial Stadium during construction for widening the field for soccer — can be used for the chosen field.
Other elements in the GPS’ contributions to the project could include labor support and the $2,000 annually paid for renting the Carpenter Center field, Smith said.

“We would be able to bring the Gering softball team back to Gering, like we brought soccer back to Gering (from the Dr. Allan C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex in northeast Scottsbluff),” he said. “It’s great for the fans and the community, plus it will be better for the GGSA to have regulation dirt fields.”

Smith asked Godinez for a possible amount of monetary contribution to the matching-fund project. While the GGSA has an amount in mind, it would have to be approved at the association’s Aug. 7 board meeting.

The Gering City Council will meet again on Aug. 12, at which time the Keno funds will be up for approval on the project, and the council can discuss other means of helping reach the matching funds needed.

Other needs include changing the fields’ sprinkler systems, but that project can wait until spring and the same could be done for the second field designated for infield transition.

“It’s a last-minute deal, but I don’t think we would have any problem getting a field into playing condition for Gering’s season,” Smith said.

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