When it comes to building a new softball complex, Aberdeen looks to have hit it out of the park.
Although it won’t be ready for competition until next April, work is about 85 percent completed on a new four-field complex, according to Mark Hoven, Director of Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
“It’s got a lot of improvements that just makes it almost like night and day between what they play on now,” Hoven said.
There are numerous noticeable differences, from improved lighting to the dimensions of the playing field itself.
“These are fields that will have the LED lights to them. They’ll have the 300-foot depth outfields. They’ll have the spacing in between the fields so we don’t have balls going from one field to another, just a lot of safety features that have been built into this,” Hoven said. “Again, the maintenance on it will be much better. The concessions and restrooms are heated and air conditioned.”
A big factor in the project was enlarging the fields to help attract state tournaments. The current fields are too small to host tourneys.
“Our fields before were not able to bring in hardly any state tournaments because of the depth of the outfields. They were just too short,” Hoven said. “All the communities in the state have begun improving their softball fields. There was a day when we probably had the premier fields, but now we don’t. We’ve fallen behind the rest of the state as far as being competitive to bring tournaments in and this will help us schedule some tournaments up here.”
The $4.5 million project was funded in big part by revenue bonds. The concept for the new complex began taking shape nearly a decade ago.
“We started this in 2012,” Hoven said, noting it began with a needs assessment and then visits to other communities. “We’ve been at this for almost 10 years. It’s a process that takes time to do it right. We wanted to make sure whatever we did, we did it well and we did it with excellence.”
The site, which is located to the southeast of the current four-field Players Field, will feature a variety of bleachers, all covered with shade structures. Hoven said the complex will be able to hold somewhere between 2,800 and 3,330 spectators.
The facility will not be completely ready until next season in order to get the grass up to par.
“We’re putting the grass into the ground and we need a year to heal,” Hoven said. “We have to have a year for the grass to grow. This year has been really difficult with the heat.”
The complex is just the start of things to come, according to Hoven.
“This is phase one. We’re working towards phase two which is to eliminate the four fields of old Players Field and make three fields there that are 300-foot fields just like these fields, so we’ll have seven fields up here that are 300-foot in length,” Hoven said. “That way we’ll be able to move all of our adult softball up here and for hosting tournaments that will be really a good thing.”
Phase three would be working on the Moccasin Creek Softball Complex to convert that to a youth softball-baseball facility. Time frame for all three phases to be completed could be around five years.
Hoven said the new complex, which sits where the Old Swisher field football and track was located, currently does not have a name.
“We don’t know, yet,” Hoven said of what it will be called. “We’re still looking for somebody that may want to donate some money to the facility to get the naming rights done. That is still out there.”
In the meantime, work will continue on a facility that should get all softball players in the area excited about the prospects of their sport.
“I think this will help grow our numbers, too. It will get some interest back into softball,” Hoven said. “They just felt there was a desperate need to upgrade our facilities. These (other) fields are 30 to 40-years-old. We’ve done a great job of maintaining and keeping them up, but at some point in time you do need to make some upgrades.”
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