LUMBERTON — Although there is plenty of work to do on Lumberton’s highly-anticipated Northeast Park, five baseball fields anchoring the 90-acre site are nearly done.
The baseball pinwheel, which has a championship field, two little league fields and two adult fields, is 90 percent complete, according to Dixon Ivey, special projects coordinator for the city, who gave an update to City Council last week.
Anderson Engineering had estimated the fields would be complete April 7, but Ivey said additional time will be needed for the city to inspect the fields, identify any issues and allow the contractor to fix them. The fields, which cost about $277,590, need to be leveled and the grass filled in.
Teams were initially supposed to be able to play on the fields as early as spring 2012, but it looks like no one will be stepping up to the plate this season either.
“There are teams waiting to come to Lumberton because of that right there,” Councilman Burnis Wilkins said during Ivey’s presentation on Thursday.
The Lumberton Youth Baseball Association currently has two fields for 20 baseball teams, according to board member Bruce Mullis.
“We haven’t been able to play baseball or softball out there for the past two summers. We thought for sure last year we’d be able to play this summer, but we’ve been disappointed again,” Mullis said.
Mullis said the two adults fields could be trimmed down to youth size with adjustable fences, opening up four fields for youth baseball and girls softball.
Mullis hopes Northeast Park can eventually be the site of the Dixie Youth World Series.
“Having four fields at the location at Northeast Park, we would have the venue availability to meet the requirements and we certainly have the hotel space, the restaurant space and the transportation to be considered for that,” he said. “… That’s a $4 million to $6 million impact for a community to host that.”
The project, which began in 2006, has been delayed by several factors. Construction was set back in 2012 when it was discovered that materials used to build the fencing around the park were not up to standards. Crews hit another snag when some of the bases didn’t line up, making for an uneven diamond.
More recently, 77 rain and snow days have forced crews to stay home, Ivey said. Sod in the outfields had to be replaced because of the cold.
Councilman Leon Maynor questioned why other work couldn’t be done while the fields are being completed.
Public Works crews have been advised to hold off on their work until the baseball pinwheel is completely done because they could damage the fields, Ivey said. That work includes building a score tower, sidewalks, a main entrance and a new 100-space parking lot near Hornets Road.
“I’ve pushed as hard as I can push legally to get it finished,” Ivey said.
Tim Taylor, director of the city’s Recreation Department, said the city will take over the majority of the work once the baseball fields are complete. Construction is nearing the end of phase two out of three or four phases, depending on what the city decides to do with a currently unused area, Taylor said.
The City Council is expected to sign off soon on a design for the score tower, a two-story building in the center of the pinwheel that will house concessions and restrooms on the first floor and space for announcers in the top floor. The first floor will be square and the second floor hexagonal so a side faces each field and another points towards the park entrance.
Construction of the score tower is expected to cost between $250,000 and $350,000 and should be complete in August.
Next, the city plans to begin work on a combination soccer/football complex behind the pinwheel and adjacent to two existing fields. A disc golf course has already been plotted out and will be finished in the soon, Taylor said.
A playground and walking trails are already in place.
“It already had a huge impact on the community because you can go out there any day of the week, no matter the weather and they are utilizing the facility,” Mullis said.