EAST LIVERPOOL - The grass infield at a new softball field at Thompson Park could end up being converted to a more conventional dirt surface in the future.
Park board President Burl Warrick and member Wink Smith met Thursday with the city school board's buildings and grounds committee to discuss the field, which has been a source of controversy due to its grass infield.
Although Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) allows grass on softball fields, they cannot be used for playoffs.
The field was recently built using money from both park funds and school district funds, with the provision it would be used as the girls' softball team's home field, but when completed, a parent complained that the girls are not accustomed to playing on grass.
The park board, however, decided to leave the grass in place for at least a season, but the girls have chosen to play at the former East Elementary site.
Asked by committee member Bob Estell, "Why did we go with a grass infield?" Smith said, "We didn't, you did," but Estell countered, "No one around here knows anything about it."
Smith said Coach Steve Dawson posed the idea of the field but nothing happened for over a year, and Warrick said, "Wink raised a pile of money" for the field in that time.
Smith said a meeting was held that included coaches, the principal, groundskeeper and then-Superintendent Ken Halbert, noting, "This is what they wanted. They signed off on it. We were absolutely tickled you wanted to come to the park."
Warrick added that, at one of the meetings, park board members were introduced to David Dawson, who has spearheaded the project, saying, "We didn't pay him."
"Neither did we," committee member Scott Dieringer added.
Dieringer said the field could better be used for other types of ball games, such as Little League, T-ball and baseball, if it had a dirt infield.
Smith said, "We OK'd the project on our part. We thought this was what you wanted. After the season, we'll look at it again. If we have to kill a little grass, we'll kill a little grass. We are committed to the community."
The committee also discussed plans for constructing dugouts at the field, with Dawson expected to bring plans and an estimate to the next park board meeting on Oct. 1.
Initial plans call for using steel for the dugouts, and Dieringer suggested enclosing them with chain link fence to offer some separation between players, coaches and the public.
Park board members asked the committee to consider asking the board of education to pay half the cost of fertilizer, weed killer and the dugout fencing.
Herring also asked permission to propose to the board having the high school construction class measure and provide an estimate for installation of drop ceilings and painting eight unused classrooms in the lower level of Westgate.
He said an increase in enrollment in the lower grades has been consistent the past three years and it is possible fourth-graders will have to be relocated to the Westgate facility in two years.
Herring also said New Castle School of Trade (NCST) has proposed using the rear lot at Westgate for its truck driving class, which could result in the school doing some improvements to the lot.
He also told committee members an effort will be made to improve communications with Better City LLC, an economic development firm hired by the city that is involved in the NCST project, saying emails will be sent every two weeks to avoid misrepresentation of what is being exchanged.