To the delight of several generations of Davis softball players in attendance Tuesday, the City Council unanimously ratified an agreement that will allow for long-awaited improvements to the Blue Devils’ softball field in Community Park.
The improvements will include a new, permanent fence in the outfield; upgrades to the batting cages, dugouts and the bullpen; and eventually trees to be planted on the third-base side of the diamond.
Needless to say, for some, the agreement between the city and the Davis school district was a long time coming.
“(Softball players in town) with all the work that they’ve all put in, they’re very deserving of having a field built that they can really call home,” former Blue Devil softball player Sam Swimley said during public comment. “I’ve had a lot of great memories on that field and I’d like to see a lot more girls build those memories and friendships on a field they can really be proud of.”
Former leaders of the city and school district — whose property lines converge almost smack-dab in the middle of the field, precluding either agency’s autonomy to make the desired improvements — long worked to find common ground in an agreement that would lead to the renovations.
But it wasn’t until the current council and school board huddled together — with pressure from Title IX implications as the boys’ baseball diamond is furnished with unparalleled improvements — that the two sides were able to swing a deal acceptable to both parties.
“I think this is great that our community, even with a line right there between two different properties, we recognize that we’re a community that’s cohesive and we’re not just a school district and a city,” said Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson, who made the motion to approve the agreement. “I think this is a great day for us.”
The new agreement allows the district to make any changes it would like on its own property, and more importantly, on the city’s property.
The school district alone will raise the funds necessary to make the improvements to the softball diamond. So far, the board has allocated $50,000 to kick-start the project, while boosters will continue tracking down further funds through donations. No city funds will be expended.
Construction of a new fence, meanwhile, will cut down on space in the park for other uses, most notably affecting youth soccer programs that often have played in the outfield of the softball field. But according to the city’s staff report, AYSO officials have endorsed the new set-up.
“AYSO, the largest soccer organization in Davis, has taken a position that, while they would prefer the softball field switch with the junior varsity boys’ baseball field, they support a fence on the existing softball field if it aids in a Title IX issue,” the report said.
The new field will be open to all softball groups, which will be able to use the facility through the normal school district reservation process.
Mayor Joe Krovoza raised a slight concern over future use of the field, as the city and school district may have competing interests over its upkeep — such as maintaining it in top condition for the school’s teams versus keeping the facility open for all users at all times — because only the district will have control.
So, in addition to the motion approving the agreement, Krovoza gained unanimous support in adding a provision to the motion where the city’s parks department would check in annually to ensure that use of the facility is being maximized.
The full improvements will include:
* Construction of a permanent 6-foot chain-link fence around the field;
* A new concrete pad to replace the decomposed granite surfacing in the existing batting cage site;
* Demolition of the existing 6-foot high chain-link dugout and replacement with an 8-foot fully enclosed chain-link dugout with a wood covering on a concrete pad;
* Dugout relocation farther down the line to allow for bleachers;
* Fencing entirely enclosing the bullpen along the third-base line; and
* Trees planted along the third-base line.
The new entrance into Davis that two residents dreamed up more than a year ago for the south side of the Richards Boulevard tunnel is beginning to drive forward.
The council Tuesday OK’d an MOU with the Davis Chamber of Commerce and Davis Downtown to begin figuring out the feasibility of placing a welcoming archway in front of the tunnel to beautify the underpass leading into the heart of the city.
This first phase will allow the two business associations and city staff to nail down the right of way details — the bridge is a Davis landmark and also falls under Union Pacific Rail Road jurisdiction — flesh out design ideas through a future community forum and begin drafting lease agreements for use of the property.
Michael Bisch, president of Davis Downtown, and Dr. Stephen Nowicki, of Davis Developmental Pediatrics Group — the two residents who first envisioned the plan — have pulled back from their original design for the welcoming archway that would stretch out in front of the industrial-looking tunnel and adjacent bikeway.
Agreeing to the MOU for phase one will come at no cost to the city.
Once the first phase has been completed, under phase two, all parties involved will begin looking for the funding sources for the project. Phase three then would call for generating the final design, which would need approval from the Davis Downtown and Chamber boards, in addition to the City Council.
The estimated completion date for the project is December 2014.
— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash