EAGLE — The grass soon will be a whole lot greener at the full-size baseball fields located at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
Actually, that grass will be ever-green, artificial turf according to a Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District plan.
“With the county decision to not pursue relocation of our WECMRD sports complex, the WECMRD board of directors decided to move forward with a portion of our original plans to improve the complex,” noted rec district Director Steve Russell in a communication to the town of Eagle dated June 20. “We will install artificial turf on the large baseball field area this fall.”
For several years, WECMRD and Eagle County have planned a relocation for the fairgrounds ballfields complex. As part of the county’s agreement with LaFarge to allow gravel mining at the site, a $3.9 million fund was established by the company to pay for the ballfields’ move so that crews could mine the gravel that lies under the current site. But according to Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu, as time has gone on and actual field design work proceeded, the costs associated with the move are higher than the amount set aside for the relocation. The county and WECMRD have continued discussions for the project, which held up improvements at the existing fields. Ultimately, Treu said the rec district has decided to proceed with the improvements at the current fields.
“The project is shelved, but I don’t think it is done,” said Treu. “Three to five years down the road we can revisit it.”
Russell said that the WECMRD board has considered an improvement program at the ballfields that includes a pavilion, new restrooms and artificial turf fields. The projects planned for this year represent about half of the overall plan and will cost somewhere in the $700,000 to $800,000 range.
Benefits for Eagle
“There are many benefits to the project, especially relevant for the town of Eagle,” Russell noted in his email to the town.
By installing the turf, Russell said WECMRD will increase field capacity for its lacrosse, soccer and football programs because the larger field will work in a multiuse capacity. But the move to improve the field also has a baseball focus.
“We will upgrade the ballfield to become, in my view, the premiere baseball field in western Colorado,” said Russell.
With the upgrades, Russell said the improved field could become home base for a summer collegiate baseball team. Earlier this year the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League granted a conditional expansion team for Eagle, pending installation of artificial turf and a pitcher’s mound.
Beyond the collegiate baseball league proposal, Russell said he has had preliminary talks with someone from the Connie Mack Baseball program to bring a regional qualifying tournament to the improved fields.
“Our planning, at this point, includes installing artificial turf of the large, multi-use field next year, increasing capacity on that field as well,” said Russell.