This article was originally published in The News-Enterprise on November 24, 2019
The infield turf conversion of the 12 Elizabethtown Sports Park baseball and softball fields is underway.
Work on the $2.6 million synthetic turf conversion project began in mid-October and is being completed by AstroTurf, a company based in Dalton, Georgia.
Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau Executive Director Janna Clark said the conversion is expected to be completed by the end of February prior to the start of the park’s 2020 season.
In 2016, as the park continued to see a big demand to hold events on diamonds, especially baseball, Clark said they’ve realized the struggle with rainouts because of the ability of the fields to recover from rain and what it takes to get multiple fields playable after several inches of rain are received just prior to events.
Clark said the infield is where the majority of the work is required to get the fields game ready following a rain. With synthetic turf, Clark said that process is quicker.
Around that same time, Tourism and Convention Bureau staff requested park staff hold initial conversations with the company that installed the championship field synthetic turf.
In 2017, they had an economic impact study and held discussions with current and potential sports organizations about the idea of doing the conversion and how that would help them recruit, retain and operate events at the park.
Then in spring 2018, a professional review of park operations, completed by Huddle Up Group, emphasized the overall benefit to the community and the sports park’s industry reputation (less rainouts) for turf conversion.
“We were basically responding to industry feedback and client feedback on how much that would help us,” Clark said. “It’s beneficial to us because of the number of fields we have.”Elizabethtown Tourism Executive Director,
The Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau Commission accepted AstroTurf’s bid in September.
“The AstroTurf team came in full force and began the project understanding the importance that we are ready for next season. Much like any construction project, the demolition of our beautiful fields is hard to watch. But we know the end game will deliver an overall better experience for all visitors to our park and community. The feedback from the baseball industry has been overwhelmingly positive,” Elizabethtown Sports Park General Manager Todd Yancey said in a statement.Elizabethtown Sports Park General Manager,
Communications Director Krysta Winstead said it is important to note people in the industry are excited.
“People who play on these fields all the time, they are so excited to not have as many rainouts and to be able to come to play,” she said.Elizabethtown Tourism Communication Director,
Clark said return on the $2.6 million investment will “come over time.” Tourism budgeted for the project in the 2017-2018 fiscal year when the commission investigated the possibility of doing this construction during the offseason of 2018-2019, but opted to wait until the new operations company, Sports Facility Management, was selected so they could manage the construction from start to finish.
Clark said they have had about $88,000 in savings through direct purchasing of materials for the project.
Winstead said they are filming the conversion of one of the fields with a GoPro, which they will share with the public. She said it’s a way for the community to feel involved with the project and better understand the process.
Elizabethtown Sports Park averages about 50 events a year. Clark said that brings an average of about 58,000 athletes, who also bring their families. Their average length of stay is 2.6 days.
“When a 100-team baseball tournament gets canceled at the last minute, the impacts there trickle down. It’s the event owner first, then it’s the park, then our businesses. … No one wins when that happens,” she said.Elizabethtown Tourism Executive Director,