City school board OKs additional work at Joe O’Brien Field

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Elizabethton Board of Education voted unanimously during its regular meeting Tuesday night to fund an additional scope of work at the Joe O’Brien Field project that adds $12,809 to the system’s share of costs.

In the spirit of baseball, here’s something of a play-by-play:

— During an April 26, 2022, Elizabethton City Council meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains was asked to provide the top three projects on his “wish list.” Repairing a “sinking” Joe O’Brien infield made the list.

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— On Sept. 14, the Elizabethton City Council approved a motion to not only replace the baseball infield turf with artificial turf, at $398,714, but to construct a new knee wall, a new seating area behind home plate, and a new safety netting area at $60,000. The total cost of $458,714 is to be shared by the City of Elizabethton, Boyd Sports, and the school system at $152,905 each.

— One week later, the city school board not only gave the OK to the Joe O’Brien Field project, but also approved a plan to spend $234,824 to replace the turf at the high school’s softball field. Knoxville-based Baseline Sports Construction has been contracted for both projects.

— On Nov. 14, Mains emailed Director of Schools Richard VanHuss, advising that “now would be the best time to take out all safety netting poles along with the knee wall from the right field entrance, adjacent to the visiting clubhouse, to the third base dugout. This move would improve the looks at the stadium and would also create a safer seating environment for fans.” Mains said $60,000 was originally budgeted to cover the cost of the knee wall and backstop area, but the additional work increases that to $98,428. That, in turn, increases the total cost of the renovations from $20,000 per partner to $32,809, which is an increase of $12,809 per partner. The overall cost of the project would increase from $152,905 to $165.715 per partner.

“Really, this has to be done and it’s going to really dress the park up, to raise the safety and the functionality of that netting system tremendously, being able to do this,” VanHuss said Tuesday night.

Joe O’Brien Field is used by the Elizabethton River Riders baseball team (owned by Boyd Sports), and Elizabethton High School’s baseball team. It is maintained by Elizabethton Parks and Recreation staff who mow the field, drag the infield, and install clay to the pitcher’s mound and the home plate area. The last time a major renovation was done at the field was in 2001, when the infield was replaced, and an irrigation system was installed.

Earlier during the meeting, VanHuss noted that the turf project at the Elizabethton High School softball field “is going very well” and turf was being laid that day. “I just can’t wait for that first game, to see our girls out there on it,” he said.