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Preps

Work on ball fields not all welcome

Overall, Citrus Park Little League board members are happy with the renovations at their fields - except for the removal of the press boxes.

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published February 13, 2004

CITRUS PARK - It's a whole new ballgame at Citrus Park Little League. The sports complex is getting new dugouts, bleachers, fencing, lights and other features, part of a three-month, $392,000 county renovation project.

But the four fields off Gunn Highway will not receive new press boxes. Nor will they get to keep the old set, which the league renovated just two years ago for more than $5,000 out of pocket.

County parks officials required the press boxes be removed for several reasons, including compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was one of several mandates that ruffled feathers at the league, home to some of the state's most elite softball and baseball teams.

League softball head Al Bowman notes the league board's concerns on its Web site, www.citrusparksoftball.com After detailing some of the renovations, he states:

"All of the press boxes will be removed (against our wishes) amongst other things. Some of these changes were needed and welcomed, and some of them we as a board questioned the need. However, the county did have final say in what was being done and what was not. Regardless, when they are done the facility will look quite appealing."

That's a fair assessment, said league president David Hubbell. League officials were disappointed over some of the county's requirements, he said, but appreciate the vast majority of the project.

"If we had our druthers, we wish we could have kept our press boxes," he said. "But we understand the county's reasons.

"Some (board members) were not happy with the fact that were going to be losing some of the character of the park. And while there are some things we're not happy with, the county is, in my opinion, doing a great job."

Safety concerns mandated that the county remove bullpen areas the league had erected. Unfortunately, the project's budget does not allow for replacements. So the league will replace the bullpens on its own dime. All told, Hubbell said, the league will spend at least $20,000 - perhaps as much as $40,000 - of its own money for additional renovations.

For example, the county mandated that the park's old bleachers be removed and replaced with new units, but they are considerably smaller, Hubbell said. Each 5-by-15-foot set seats about 50 people. The county allotted two sets at each of the complex's four ballparks: one for softball, three for baseball.

That would not provide enough seating, Hubbell said. So Citrus Park Little League negotiated to pay the difference for 7-by-21-foot sets for three of the four fields, and will pay the entirety for bleachers at the pee-wee baseball field. That will run the league more than $12,000, he said.

The league also will pay out of pocket to renovate its batting cages and add awnings to concession stands to protect spectators from the weather.

Another contentious requirement was that the county replace Citrus Park's concrete dugouts with ones that use fences for walls. That's a deterrent to criminal activity when the park is not in use, county parks spokesman John Brill said.

"That way the sheriff's deputies can shine their lights in there."

County workers also are replacing wooden light poles, several of them well-worn by woodpeckers, with concrete poles. Power lines that had been strewn through the air are being placed underground.

One upside to that, Hubbell said, is that it will allow the league to erect netting between the junior baseball field and the neighboring softball field. In the past, foul balls and overthrows from the baseball field occasionally struck softball spectators. The power lines previously kept officials from adding such protection.

Citrus Park Little League is just one of numerous county parks being renovated, part of $18-million in improvements to various fields over the next several years, Brill said.

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 12:51:07]

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