Oregon Trail Park upgrades proposed
     2015-07-23      By Jerry Purvis    news@geringcitizen.com
It will take several years to complete the project, but plans are being developed on the best way to expand the ball fields near the swimming pool in Oregon Trail Park.

Justin Allred, chair of Gering’s Recreation Committee, said the group met Monday night to discuss how to proceed. “Right now, we’re in the preliminary stages in discussing plans,” he said. “There are some plans we’ll review in further detail, then see if we can get everyone onboard on how to move forward.”

Gering Parks Director Ron Ernst said they have an early design and are now trying to get a solid cost estimate for the project. “We’ll need to break it into phases because it will probably take five years to complete,” he said. “We’ll just do what we can each year.”
Ernst said the city will probably expand one ball field each year, as they have to accommodate for teams that use the fields for play each season.

The only other option would be to build new ball fields at a site just north of Five Rocks Amphitheater, which was purchased by the city several years ago for a proposed sports complex.

“With a new site, we wouldn’t interrupt anyone’s baseball season,” Ernst said. “But I get the impression that most people want the ball fields to stay in Oregon Trail Park. It’s closer to downtown and the swimming pool.”

The latest cost estimate for the entire project could run in the neighborhood of $1.8 million for field expansion, a new field and a building for concessions and restrooms.

Under the current design, which is subject to change, the two boys 200-foot fence baseball fields would be expanded to 300-foot fences, and moved north. That would make room for the expansion of three softball fields from 200-foot to 300-foot fences. Ernst said the designer recommended a temporary 200-foot fence for the softball fields, which could be removed to accommodate larger tournaments, if needed.
A 400-foot fence baseball diamond will be added next to the Diamond One, where Legion and Babe Ruth baseball games are played. That field has a fence at 364 feet.
“The college has expressed interest in playing here,” Ernst said. “A 400 foot fence is regulation size for baseball diamonds and they’ll need one of that size. It could also be used by the boys age 13 and older. With two fields, they could host some nice tournaments. Right now, we’re just stuck with the one field.”

Ernst said representatives from Western Nebraska Community College, Babe Ruth and Legion B Baseball, and Little League Gering Organized Baseball would all be involved in moving the project forward.
“In the future, we want to get all fields’ user groups together so we’re all on the same page and supportive of the project going forward,” Ernst said. “We need that input and support before we even start building.”

Ernst added Recreation Committee members agreed to submit the proposal during the city’s upcoming budget workshops to determine whether funding is available to start some of the initial phases of the project.

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