City school board gives final OK needed for turf replacement

Published 9:34 am Monday, September 25, 2023

BY ROBERT SORRELL
A joint project between Boyd Sports, the City of Elizabethton and Elizabethton City Schools to restore the turf at Joe O’Brien Field has received approval from all three entities.
Boyd Sports, which manages several East Tennessee baseball teams, including the Elizabethton River Riders, recently approached officials in Elizabethton about the need to fix the aging turf at the baseball field. The organization, owned by Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, said the project is quoted at $458,714 and will be completed by Baseline Inc.
The project would be paid equally by Boyd Sports, the city of Elizabethton and Elizabethton City Schools. Boyd Sports proposes to cover the entire cost, and once completed, the two Elizabethton entities will have 90 days to each pay $152,905. The remaining costs will be covered by Boyd Sports, the company proposes.
Work at the baseball field has not been completed since 2001, according to notes provided to City Council members in early September.
The field is used by the Elizabethton River Riders and Elizabethton High School Baseball. It had also been used by the Elizabethton Twins. Over time, the number of games played at the facility is now in the thousands since the last renovations were made, according to Kelly Kitchens, the city’s programming and special events coordinator.
The amount of play and the current condition of the field have created safety issues for players, the notes state.
The turf will cost $398,714 and a knee wall, safety netting, poles and concrete will cost $60,000, according to the city.
During its meeting on Sept. 14, City Council approved a motion to replace the infield turf. Only Councilman Richard Barker voted against the project.
The Elizabethton School Board considered the proposal on Sept. 21.
“We’re the remaining component,” Director of Schools Richard Vanhuss told school board members.
The project will be completed before the next baseball season begins in February, Vanhuss said. He added that Ryan Presnell, the high school’s head baseball coach, said replacing the turf will greatly benefit the program.
“The wear and tear on the field makes it very difficult,” Vanhuss said.
The school board unanimously approved the proposal from Boyd Sports.
Board members also unanimously approved a plan to spend $234,824 to replace the turf at the high school’s softball field. Baseline Inc., the Knoxville-based company that is also working on the baseball field, will replace the softball field’s turf.

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