Maintenance needs at varsity baseball field discussed at Mars Area
ADAMS TWP – Water and drainage problems rose to the top of priorities at a Mars Area School District meeting Tuesday. Parents and board members discussed what next steps to take in renovating the Mars Area varsity baseball field at the high school.
Members of the Mars Backstop Club baseball booster organization spoke in support of moving forward with repairs, highlighting a need to address a lack of drainage on the field before the district deals with other deficiencies.
“To spend the money to work on the infield without actually getting the water [out] and fixing the grading might just be a waste of money,” Backstop Club board member Gary Gottschalk said. “The grading needs to be addressed prior to any maintenance on it because of the way the water ponds on the field. That’s really what prohibits the play. The rough surface is one issue, but the water sitting there is what keeps us off the field. We feel that that needs [to be] addressed prior to the maintenance.”
Superintendent Mark Gross said the district had arranged with a contractor to complete an aeration of the field along with spraying for weeds and seeding.
Gottschalk emphasized that drainage should be addressed first so that the district won’t need to repeat its work.
“I just hate to see that money spent, and it’s not going to change anything except for the condition of the grass,” Gottschalk said. “The problem is you would have to cover over everything you just did to get the grading out on the infield. I don’t want to see you waste the money if that could go towards the bigger fix.”
At a Sept. 6 board meeting, Jeff Maple, a vice president of the Mars Backstop Club, and other Mars Backstop parents spoke about the condition of the baseball field, raising concerns about the lack of a level infield and aeration, the need for drainage improvements and the presence of overgrowth and crabgrass over the baselines from home to first base and third base to home. The group gave a presentation on possible fixes.
“That’s why we are here — asking for your help to help us,” Maple said Sept. 6. “Once it rains, it’s done. The day is over, and tomorrow is over too. The water just doesn’t go anywhere, unless we pump it out.”
Maple asked for help from the district to renovate and maintain the field.
“It really shouldn’t fall on our responsibility, financially and physically, to go and take care of the baseball field for the varsity team like we had to with the Little League teams,” he said.
He presented options for changes to the field’s maintenance. One option would be for the district to commit roughly $20,000 to maintain the field for this season, and another would be a larger project to install a turf field. Installing turf on the infield would cost roughly $500,000, while installing a full turf field would be around $1.5 million, though the Backstop Club still is waiting on final estimates.
In an interview before the meeting, Maple said parents often had to step up in past years to keep the field playable.
“Last year alone, the first time we were able to get on the field was nine weeks after the season started,” he said. “That’s due to rain, that’s due to the field just not being taken care of, and that’s where parents have to step in and do it all.”
Issues with the field have existed for some time, he added. He hopes that the presence of the district’s new athletic director, Zach Matusak, will result in the problems with the field getting more attention.
“It’s just good that now that we have a new athletic director, that everybody seems to be in agreement that we need to move forward and improve the field,” Maple said. “(At the previous meeting) I was asking for their help — we need your help to improve this. We can’t do it anymore.”
Gross said the district is “moving as fast as it can” to address issues with the field.
“We’re doing the aerating, the seeding and the weed spray,” he said. “We are going to do something, we are just trying to figure out how soon we can get this infield work done.”
While the district has a company picked out to do the aeration, seeding, and weed-killing, Gross said no one has yet been lined up to work on the dirt infield portion. He plans to talk with Matusak about the next steps. Larger changes to the field may be discussed as part of an ongoing capacity study at the district.
“Depending on the prices, (the grading) is most likely going to go to bid, and we are going to be trying to get that done also,” he said. “Our goal would be this year. We want that field ready and playable in an optimal condition for the spring, when they start in the spring.”
Board members expressed support for the baseball parents’ efforts.
“Thanks for bringing all of this to our attention and working with us. Hopefully, we can get all of that resolved for you,” said board member Nicole Thurner.
“I’m just grateful to live in a community where the parents want to be involved,” said board member Megan Lenz. “Thanks for putting your time, energy, and effort into something. I know your children play there, but it’s still for the good of all the kids in the community.”