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Public hearing set to discuss upgrades to Thomas E. Atkins ball field

Friday, July 29, 2011 | 4:23 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 30, 2011

COLUMBIA — By the end of the summer, children could be hitting pitches over the fence at Thomas E. "Country" Atkins Jr. Memorial Park Baseball Complex — and by next spring, they'll be able to buy a hot dog there, too.

A public hearing about the most recent phase of the baseball complex's construction, including a concession area, will be held during Monday's City Council meeting.

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The first phase of the project was the construction of two lighted baseball fields and a 130-space parking lot. The second phase of construction, partially funded by a Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant, was a third baseball field.

Now, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department is prepared to start on the third phase of the complex, which will add lights to the field, a restroom in place of portable toilets and a permanent concession area. The price tag on the third phase is $850,000.

Two local organizations, The Diamond Council and Boone County Baseball were consulted on the project. Diamond Council President Paul Blythe said he is happy about the improvements. He said the work that has already been done sets a new standard for ball fields in Boone County.

"It's the best (field) in Columbia, pretty close to the best in the state," Blythe said. "I've not played at any nicer."

Ultimately, the plan is to build two more ballfields at the complex as the city tries to keep pace with demand.

"We'll eventually have five," said Toni Messina, the city communications director. "We need the facilities."

More fields also will make it easier for baseball leagues to schedule practices and games.

"Normally, a city this size has 90 fields," Blythe said. "We have between 30 and 40."

Funding will come from the 2010 park sales tax, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood.

The finances will be split between two fiscal years — $450,000 from 2011's budget and $400,000 from 2012's.

The city manager's memo also estimated that lights on the new field would cost approximately $10,000 to $12,000 in utilities per year. Half of that cost will be offset by revenue from use of the field, according to estimates. The concession stand is expected to at least break even with operating costs and make a profit for the department.

The concession and restroom facility will be 2,000 square feet. An additional 5,000 square feet of shade will be provided by an overhang roof surrounding the building.

Baseball cages, walkways, more shade structures and landscaping will be included in the project as funding permits. These additions will help draw larger baseball tournaments to the complex, which in turn will provide more revenue for Columbia, Hood said.

"This is viewed as recreational as well as being an economic attractor for the city," he said.

Work will begin this summer, with the hope that the phase will be complete by the beginning of baseball season in 2012.

Hood said a timeline for the final two fields will be set when funding can be identified.

Other items on the agenda for the council meeting on Monday include:

  • An agreement with TREKK Design Group LLC for a fiscal year 2011 study of sewer inflow and infiltration system.
  • Installation of solar electric photovoltaic systems on land controlled by the Public Works Department.
  • A progress report on taxi stands in downtown Columbia, which were put in place in April. According to city data, there have been 174 tickets issued for violations and 72 vehicles towed at the stands. 
  • A report on the Citizens Police Review Board from Police Chief Ken Burton, the Columbia Police Officers Association and the Citizens Police Review Board.

Interviews with candidates for the open seat on the Citizens Police Review Board, a presentation by Thumper Entertainment on the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival; and a presentation by Randy Gray of the Downtown Leadership Council will take place at a pre-council meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.


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