Just as local yards and gardens are making the seasonal color shift to brown, things are getting ready to green up at the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District playing fields complex in Eagle.
That’s as in permanently green — with the installation of artificial turf.
According to WECMRD Director Steve Russell, the work began last month on the multiuse field on the southeast corner of the four-field complex located west of the Eagle County Fairgrounds. The area has already been graded and a new drainage system has been built. Additionally a tarp has been laid over the field and a four-inch deep rock base has been hauled in to the area. Now that rock will be crushed and the turf carpet will be laid over the entire field. Russell figures the overall project will be completed by the end of October at an estimated cost of $850,000.
Since the early 2000s, the field has been used by soccer, lacrosse, softball and baseball teams, but it is often referred to as the complex’s baseball field because it is the only field at the site with a pitching mound. Russell said with the turf installation, the area will continue as a multiuse field and that WECMRD is investigating both upgraded temporary pitching mounds or building a seasonal mound at the site for use during the summer months.
“It’s going to be a premier baseball field,” said Russell. “Hopefully these improvements will attract the attention of tournament organizers.”
The new turf field, paired with improvements done last summer at the rest-room/concession stand located at the fairgrounds complex, represents the first phase of improvements at the property. Next year the rec district hopes to install turf at the other multi-use field on the southwest corner of the complex. Additionally, there are plans for a shade pavilion and an improved play area at the site. Russell said WECMRD is also working with Eagle County to increase spectator seating in the area.
‘“There are a lot of bleachers at the fairgrounds area that aren’t being used,” he said.
Russell said the rec district made the decision to upgrade the existing complex when plans for new fields south of the existing facilities were put on indefinite hold.
“Eagle County told us they were not interested in moving the fields,” said Russell. “They told us they had no plans to relocate them.”
The county and WECMRD have long discussed plans to relocate the sports field to a lower bench area of the fairgrounds property, reclaiming an area where gravel mining has already been completed. However, with the national recession and the demand for gravel drying up, the LaFarge mining operations at the site have markedly slowed.
“The county is definitely still interested in moving the ball fields,”said Kris Friel, Eagle County Communications Director.
“After getting the true cost for the move/reconstruction, the county realized it did not fit within the budget (i.e. within the agreed upon amount we were to get from LaFarge),” she said. “So, the county decided the time was not right as it would require bringing additional dollars to the table.”