City officials pledged at a Monday City Council meeting that a new artificial turf infield at rain out-prone Island Crest Park will be ready by opening day of the 2013 high school baseball season.
Mercer Island City Council unanimously approved a deal to pay Lake Stevens-based Premier Field Development $249,725.55 for placing artificial turf in Island Crest Park's north infield, in the coach's and batter's boxes and Islanders logoed artificial turf in front of the dugouts and around home plate. The total approved budget for the project is $353,572.
A considerable part of the funding for the project came from the Mercer Island Baseball Booster Club and a group of parents, calling themselves "Friends of Island Crest Park". Booster club chairs Jerry Goldberg and Pete Higgins presented a check for $150,000 to Mayor Bruce Bassett during the meeting to help pay for the work.
"It's just a big step forward, not only to the high school, but all users of the field," Higgins said.
Mercer Island High School's baseball team uses Island Crest Park as their home field.
Higgins also said that the infield's soggy conditions has led to several injuries and, over the past two years, nearly half of Islanders Baseball home games were cancelled due to rainouts — putting the team at a competitive disadvantage.
"We've had basically two years where we didn't field ground balls in the infield during practice," he said.
Parks Superintendent Jason Kintner said the improvements would eliminate the cancellation of games due to standing water on the field in all but the heaviest downpours. Bidding for the project came in higher than expected, but the city decided to move ahead with the contract in order to "play ball" by the start of the next season.
"We need to have this project complete by February, 2013," he said. "We feel that we can definitely get this project done."
The turf has an expected lifespan of eight years, and a new fee will be added to all users of the field to pay for a sinking fund to eventually replace the field.
Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Fletcher said the effort to replace the infield turf has been years in the making and was part of a failed 2008 local parks bond. After that bond failed, the city parternered with private groups using the parks to pay for improvements to the South Mercer Fields. The idea to help fund the turf replacement grew from that agreement, said Fletcher.
City Council also unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the Mercer Island School District for use of the field and accepting a contribution from the MISD for the improvements in the amount of $25,000.
An additional project to replace lighting at the park was placed on hold after officials determined low-energy LED flood lights were not yet available on the market and the city was unable to secure additional funding from King County.