Union R-XI will have a baseball/softball facility in time for the spring season.

The board gave the green light Wednesday night to allocate $422,340 from the district’s capital improvement fund for ATG Sports to build the facility on the campus of Union High School.

The scope of work for the field includes a turf infield, grass outfield, dugouts, backstop and NLB netting, scoreboard, fencing, synthetic turf bullpen, foul poles, a removable pitcher’s mound for softball and split face block backstop wall.

The bid also includes drainage and irrigation systems, surveying, staking, soil testing and analysis and other necessary preparations for constructing the field.

Not included in the bid are plans for a concession stand and restrooms, which would cost about $119,000 for a 500-square-foot building, and bleachers. Those additional items have not yet been approved by the board.

Vote Was Not Unanimous

The OK for the field didn’t come without some reservations, as the vote to approve was 4-2. Board members Jim Borgmann and Virgil Weideman voted against it. Board President Gary Young was absent.

“I’ve got two issues with this,” Weideman said. “I’m not against doing a project like this but I did not want to take the information we already have and go with that because I think local companies can do some of this work. If we’re going to do it, we need to bid it so local companies can have an opportunity to bid it.”

The project was put out for bid at the same time as the football field with three companies submitting proposals, Activities Director Chris Arand said. ATG Sports, the company spearheading the outdoor facilities project, was the low bidder.

Don Bolinger, president of construction services for ATG, said many local companies would be working on the project.

“Sixty-five percent of the work is going to be local,” he said. “The irrigation, the sod, the backstop, the block that’s going in for the dugouts will all be local.”

Weideman said he also didn’t think the timing was right to approve the project.

“I’d much rather see us look at this toward spring,” he said. “From a public point of view, all of the sudden we’re going to spend $400,000 on this and we’re still asking for donations for $260,000 for the football field. I’m afraid that doing this now would hurt our fund-raising.”

Board member Ron Sohn said he disagrees that it would hurt fund-raising.

“I’ve talked to several baseball associations and they are on board with helping us,” he said.

The field would keep all sports on the Union campus, Sohn said. Presently, the district uses the softball complex at Union’s city park and the field at East Central College.

“We wouldn’t have to worry about our kids driving their cars to (East Central College),” he said. “But more than that, it’s a win-win situation for everybody. It’s going to make our high school complete. I disagree that holding it off is going to gain us anything. It’s good for the kids, and it’s definitely good for the community.”

Arand said having a home field also would make it easier to schedule softball tournaments.

“The city is really great about working with us, but a lot of times when we have a softball tournament we run into a horse show down there and have trouble parking,” he said.

A home field with turf and proper drainage also would mean fewer rainouts,

Last year Union played 13 games total because of rainouts, Arand said.

Funding Concerns

Borgmann said he agrees with Sohn that the field is good for the school and the community, but is concerned about funding for the facility.

“The fiscal side of it makes me nervous,” he said. “I don’t like jumping into it until we get a few things cleaned up and see where we are (financially). If we didn’t have all these other things going on I would be more willing to spend $600,000 that we’re probably going to spend when it’s all said and done.”

Waiting until spring could raise the cost of the field, Bolinger said.

“More construction is going on and when there’s more construction, the price goes up,” he said. “More likely than not, everything is going to go up.”

Bolinger estimated that materials alone could go up about 10 percent, which would mean spending $40,000 more for the facility if it was constructed in the spring.

Superintendent Steve Bryant said the district has $2.1 million in its capital improvement fund.