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Cost of new ballfields drops

Contractors say they can build the facilities for about $3M less than the $7.3M estimate.

By THERESA BLACKWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 10, 2008


An aerial photograph of the southeast corner of East Lake and Keystone roads, where four county ballfields will be built.
photo
[Jim Damaske | Times]
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EAST LAKE - When the estimated cost to create four new multipurpose ballfields in North Pinellas came in at $7.3-million last fall, county commissioners balked.

Suddenly, prospects for the project looked dim. Some officials even talked of looking elsewhere, away from the School Board-owned land at East Lake and Keystone roads that had looked so promising just a few months before.

But then officials heard from private sector contractors who said they could do the job for less - as much as $3-million or so less - if the county made minor changes in the scope of work.

That might just be the spark the project needs.

Pinellas County officials now plan to invite contractors to send in proposals within the next few months to design and build four athletic fields at the East Lake site.

Both county and East Lake Youth Sports Association officials are optimistic about the outcome. The Youth Sports Association's current playing fields on Old Keystone Road are jammed with football, Little League and soccer teams, plus cheerleading squads, from all over North Pinellas.

"It certainly has been a long time coming, but I think we're at the place where this is going to move to fruition," said Commissioner Susan Latvala, who worked to obtain the School Board's approval for building fields on district property.

Latvala said Wednesday that a contractor called her after hearing about the estimate to say that his company could do the job for $3- to $3.5-million less than the County Commission's staff had estimated. With some unobtrusive dollar-saving measures, he said, he could still provide all the amenities of the original plan, including four multipurpose fields, a concession stand, restrooms, parking and lighting.

The county consulted another contractor who agreed that the job could be done for a similar price, Latvala said.

"Even better news: They saw things in that original scope that could be done less expensively," she said.

The original scope, for example, used a high-priced sod so that fields would be ready for play as quickly as possible. The contractors suggested using less costly sod or planting plugs of grass instead.

"I'm very optimistic and will be very happy to see this one get under way," Latvala said.

Rick Watson, president of the East Lake Youth Sports Association, said he feels "very good about what we've heard up to this point."

The construction industry needs work now, he said, so the price may reflect that.

"I'm hopeful that the price will come in at a number that the commissioners will be comfortable with," he said.

Bryan Kutchins, general counsel for the East Lake Youth Sports Association, said the organization is very excited about recent progress because the kids need those fields.

The Sports Association has 30 teams beating the heck out of two fields, Kutchins said, and that's just the soccer players. The new fields will take a lot of pressure off the existing ones on Old Keystone Road, he said, reduce some of the traffic on Old Keystone Road and provide more parking.

"It's going to fix a lot of things, not only for the kids, but for the neighborhood," he said.

In the meantime, the county is continuing to look at other sites for additional North Pinellas ballfields, talking with municipalities and other groups that might enter into agreements with the county to operate and maintain the fields once they are built.

"We don't think that this project alone settles all the issues of a shortage of ballfields in the north county area," said Paul Cozzie, bureau director of the county's culture, education and leisure department.

But one site Cozzie has previously said he is no longer looking at is 38.5 piney acres in the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

[Last modified January 9, 2008, 22:12:43]


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