BY DEBBIE PAGE
The long-awaited baseball/softball fields at ESC Park are coming online this week if weather permits the finishing touches to be completed, according Troutman Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson.
Watson updated the Troutman Town Council on the park’s latest developments during the recent retreat.
The ESC Park Master Plan, with three planned phases, was approved in 2011 after one year of input from community stakeholders. The phase one fitness trail, nature trail, dog park, playground, and multi-purpose fields are complete, and the phase two splash pad opened last fall briefly when COVID-19 restrictions loosened.
The planned phase two amphitheater and additional parking were put on hold until Iredell County commissioners’ plans to renovate and improve the Iredell County Fairgrounds are complete to avoid duplication of facilities.
Several 2018 amendments to the initial plan included the pavilion, two sand volleyball courts, and playground expansion.
The phase three baseball/softball fields are opening soon, with additional parking coming in the spring. A pre-construction meeting for the field parking lot was slated for this week, and grading and paving will begin once the weather warms.
Recent citizen feedback drove the town’s decision to move ahead with the ballfields last fall. Watson said “our youth leagues, local families, and organizations are grateful for a facility to operate their sport in their community.”
Dugouts are also planned, with concrete costs coming in at $6,000 and four aluminum roofs at $2,200 each. All four dugouts are already sponsored.
The final piece to complete this facility is a planned concession stand and additional restrooms for the new fields, along with a small storage building for field equipment.
Other phase three plans include basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and a walking track around the soccer fields.
Watson said the preliminary cost estimate for the concession stand/restrooms totaled $326,584. Town Manager Ron Wyatt felt the project could be completed well under this initial estimate, which he noted is typically high.
The project will be constructed using a design-build method to lower costs, with the council giving its blessing to Watson to start the process.
When asked about lighting the fields, Watson said that lights were not in the plan for the near future.
Watson is also exploring adding more covered picnic areas for the park down the road, including gazebos that could be rented.
Watson also presented preliminary cost options for other phase three amenities. A 5-foot-wide concrete walking trail around the soccer field was $79,144, with a 5-foot-wide asphalt trail at $66,150. A 10-foot wide asphalt trail was estimated at $90,825.
However, Watson reported that she received an actual cost estimate last week of $32,625 for the 5-foot concrete option. This company has done other concrete projects for the town and does excellent work, according to Public Works Director Adam Lippard.
The council will consider a budget amendment for this project with the low cost bid, which is good through June.
Watson is also eying a town property near the library for a future pocket park for area children who frequent the library.
When COVID-19 restrictions ease, Watson plans some public input sessions to update the Park Master Plan.
“We did a park design, but we did not plan for staffing and maintenance.” Watson said.
Watson and assistant Paxton Hix are catching their breath and getting the new additions up and running, noting that they now no longer have county help with fields.
“We have to figure out what’s sustainable.”
In January, the Parks and Recreation Committee adopted a sponsorship opportunities package to work with local business owners and community partners to seek marketing exposure opportunities that are beneficial for the sponsor and the town.
Some sponsorship proceeds will go toward funding the concession/restroom project. Park supporters can also choose to sponsor scoreboards, outfield signs, dugout signs, the concession stand, picnic tables, park trees and benches, playground, soccer field, and equipment storage facility,
Aluminum outfield signs (4 feet by 8 feet) on the ball fields are $500 for a two-year display, with a 20 percent discount for signs on multiple fields. Sponsors may submit a design for approval.
Other sponsorship opportunities for all town events go toward a well-planned recreation system, relevant programming, and other quality facilities.
The staff will seek multiple quotes, bids, and pricing options on the concession/restrooms project to be a good steward of sponsorship funds. Watson is also asking the council to contribute a portion of the funding for the project.
Jan Comer is heading up the sponsorship drive, and Watson reported that response has been strong. She and staff are currently designing field signs for sponsors.
Watson welcomes in-kind donations of a needed product or service in lieu of a financial contribution.
Contact Watson at email@example.com to get a sponsorship package for an array of town projects and events throughout the year.
Other Recreation News
♦ The Troutman Farmers Market will open on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. starting May 4 and running through September 28 at the ESC Park Pavilion. Interested vendors can visit the Troutman website (https://tinyurl.com/jcjcdwp3) to download an application or stop by Troutman Town Hall to pick one up.
The purpose of the Troutman Farmers Market is to provide a comfortable location for consumers, farmers, and artisans to buy and sell domestic fruits, vegetables, plants, meats, honey, and natural homemade goods.
This market is not a flea market to resell products; items for sale must help support and sustain local farmers and artists.
Contact Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
♦ Yoga in the Park will begin on Thursday, April 1, at 5:30 p.m. and continue each Thursday in April. Melinda Spencer will lead a one-hour session of physically distanced yoga at Troutman ESC Park Pavilion.
These sessions are free of charge, and all ability levels are welcome. Participants should bring their own yoga mat and water bottle. Hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, and masks will be available onsite for participants.
Each session is limited to 20 participants. Email Watson at email@example.com to reserve a space.
♦ The Community Bluegrass Jam sessions will resume this spring on Monday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at a new location, Troutman ESC Park. Others sessions are planned for April 26, May 10, and May 17.
There is plenty of room in the grass to spread out and social distance. If inclement weather occurs, the staff will provide updates on the Troutman Parks and Recreation Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/TroutmanESCPark/ ).
The town invites community members to come and enjoy some good bluegrass music or bring an instrument and play and sing along.
Troutman Chair Company is bringing its famous rockers for listeners to enjoy. Attendees are invited to pack a picnic and plan to join the fun.