Cost of ballpark redevelopment plan balloons
June 30, 2021
The cost of Tucumcari Public Schools' ballparks redevelopment plan has ballooned more than 22% to a top level of $4.9 million since October 2019, but the superintendent voiced optimism he could take steps to drop the price tag close to the original $3 million.
School board members during a work session before their regular June 21 meeting heard a presentation by Chris van Dyck, chief operating officer of Greer Stafford Architecture of Albuquerque, which is overseeing the bond-issued project that was approved by voters in February 2019.
Superintendent Aaron McKinney said construction on the project was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and "legal wrangling" in acquiring the necessary land from the city. McKinney, saying the necessary land survey was "90% done," said the project also involves property owned by Quay County.
The redevelopment of the baseball and softball fields include lighting on the diamonds and new parking lot, dugouts, a scorekeepers table and bench, a bullpen, batting cages, warning tracks, a concessions building that can serve multiple fields, a changing room for teams and shade trees near the fields and in the parking area. The baseball field would be 380 feet from home plate to center field and the softball field 200 feet. Trees on the edge of the grounds would remain.
Van Dyck said once started, the redevelopment could be finished in six to nine months. However, he said "there's a lot of construction going on" throughout New Mexico because of people and entities flush with federal COVID-19 relief money. He also cautioned about "a lot of delay" in securing necessary state permits this year.
Because of high demand for building materials and construction work, van Dyck also attributed those to the estimated 22.5% increase in costs for the project.
McKinney admitted the district "needs to get costs down quite a bit" and had several strategies to do that, including:
• Bidding out certain construction projects separately;
• Delaying work on some less-important items, including possibly the parking lot;
• Using leftover funds from the previous school year to begin construction during the early stages.
McKinney said because the district holds "a substantial amount' of additional funds because of less spending during the pandemic, he is motivated to spend it quickly before the district becomes at risk of a clawback of that money to the state government.
McKinney also said he hopes the baseball and softball fields can be redeveloped before the start of next season.
"I'm looking at the money and trying to get it accomplished," he summarized.
If Tucumcari cannot host home games during the first few weeks of the 2022 season, he said those can be moved to nearby facilities in San Jon or Logan.
McKinney said he's looking at a possibility the city will deed a third ballfield to the school district.
He said he's thinking the city also might vacate a pothole-strewn South 14th Street east of the ballparks, giving the district the chance to resurface it.
Tucumcari High School baseball coach Dennis Dysart and softball coach CJ Oglesby were invited to the work session to give their opinions on the project.
Dysart said one of the highest priorities is acquiring two batting machines. He said Logan, which days later would win the Class 1A championship, uses two batting machines.
"They can run their whole team through batting practice in 20 minutes," he said. "It takes us over two hours."
Dysart also mentioned other amenities, such as a full practice pitching mound, batting and helmet racks in the dugouts and pegs to hang backpacks.
Dysart also mentioned an artificial-turf infield for less maintenance. But McKinney said sandy soils in the region quickly wear down the turf to where it will last only six to 10 years.
Van Dyck added that all the ballfields his firm designs do no use artificial turf because of the initial high-dollar investment.
Oglesby said dugouts for the softball field need to be bigger because current ones can seat only seven players, requiring extension ropes for those areas.
He also offered that lights might not be necessary for the softball field. He said he supported a changing room for teams, especially for girls.
As for the overall project, Oglesby said he's "ready for this to happen" because he's "embarrassed" by the condition of his team's field.
"The kids need it," he said. "Let's do it, man. The city doesn't take care of crap, to be honest. I think these boys and girls have played out there long enough."