Pratt makes plans to turf infield diamonds at Green Sports Complex

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
The four baseball/softball diamonds at Pratt’s Green Sports Complex are currently laid with grass, but a matching grant from KDWPT could help the city pay to have the diamonds turfed in the near future.

Turfing the infields of all four baseball diamonds at Green Sports Complex may be on the horizon, thanks to a $250,000 reimbursable grant from the Kansas Division of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Pratt Recreation Department Director Larry Eisenhauer told Pratt City Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday, November 2, with Mayor Gary Schmidt presiding and Commissioners Doug Meyer, Don Peters, Jason Leslie and Zach Deeds, all in attendance, along with commissioners-elect Jeanette Siemens and Kyle Farmer, who will officially take office on January 11, 2021.

Eisenhauer advised commissioners that the KDWPT grant is a 50-50 matching grant, based on $250,000 of city funds to complete the turfing project.

“It’s the same as the grant the city received to develop the Green Sports Complex, which was completed in summer 2004,” Eisenhauer said.

Eisenhauer said the advantage of turfing the infields is that turf takes weather out of the equation for ball play, meaning rainy weather doesn’t automatically cancel a game.

With turf, Eisenhauer told commissioners, the Green Sports Complex would be positioned to viably compete for regional and state baseball tournament play, which translates to an economic boost to Pratt businesses.

“We’re strategically located,” Eisenhauer said. “We want Pratt to become the South-Central Kansas destination for baseball tournaments.”

Tournament play in Pratt could give Pratt’s economy an annual boost of potentially $1.5 million a year, Eisenhauer told commissioners.

“Those aren’t my figures,” Eisenhauer said. “They’re based on KDWPT projections.”

While turf is not currently a requirement for baseball tournaments, turf does mean that rain won’t be a deciding factor as to whether or not a game is cancelled, which would give Pratt an advantage because there would be less likelihood of cancellation in event of rain, Eisenhauer said.

The city’s matching funds could include in-kind services, such as city crews or volunteer groups helping prepare the fields for turfing, which could reduce the city’s financial outlay by as much as up to 50 percent of the required $250,000 matching grant, according to Eisenhauer.

Business sponsorships, which would be acknowledged through signage, are another potential source of revenue to offset the city’s matching funds.

Responding to a question by Mayor Schmidt regarding time restraints on spending the grant funds, Eisenhauer replied the grant funds would expire in October 2021 if not used, with City Treasurer Diana Garten noting that most grants allow for an extension of time, once a project is underway.

“I’m glad you keep coming back to keep us updated,” Mayor Schmidt told Eisenhauer.

“There’s a lot of chatter out there right now and a lot of misinformation,” Eisenhauer said.

City Manager Bruce Pinkall said he anticipated there would ultimately be community buy-in for the project.

Fielding the second of two commission agenda items, Pinkall updated commissioners regarding the new fiber optics phone system, which commissioners approved at a sSpecial call meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, October 21. Financing for the $60,000 project is provided through SPARKS funds which were approved last June 2 by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Taskforce Executive Committee to help cities, counties and school districts address challenges created by COVID-19.

An advantage of the new phone system, which will replace the city’s almost 20-year-old system, is that more communications between departments will be able to be handled by phone, cutting down on face-to-face contacts among city employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Pinkall said.

Speed of transmission is another COVID-related benefit because City of Pratt Police Department communications will also be enhanced through the upgrade, resulting in faster responses to any COVID-related or other emergencies, Pinkall said.

Pratt City Hall will be closed Wednesday, November 11, in recognition of Veterans Day.

The next scheduled meeting is November 16 at city hall.