MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission Tuesday approved an estimated $3.3 million plan calling for construction of long-delayed Little League ballfields in Palmetto.
The commission settled on an option that calls for three, regulation-sized ballfields; a parking lot; a press box; concession building; bleachers; sidewalks, and lighting at Blackstone Field, east and north of existing Blackstone Park softball fields.
The new fields, designed to accommodate the North River American Little League, are expected to take approximately 22 months to build, according to the county.
The county plans to mitigate chemical pollution from previous farming of the land by removing the top layer of existing soil, hauling it to the Lena Road landfill, and exchanging it for clean fill that will serve as a buffer, according to Cindy Turner, county director of parks and recreation.
This eliminates direct exposure from the chemicals on the old farming operation to visitors of the new park, county officials said.
The city of Palmetto will contribute $800,000 toward
the new ballfields, with county park impact fees and community partnerships supplying the rest.
"We're satisfied with the design," said Derek Goforth, president of the Little League organization, after the vote.
The league expects about 185 players for its spring season, down from about 300, because of the difficulty of operating a league with no permanent home field, he said.
For about four years, the Little League has been playing at two adult softball fields at Blackstone Park after Palmetto officials sold its previous home to the county school board for a new elementary school.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant was all smiles after Tuesday's vote.
She said she intended to contact Major League Baseball organizations for financial assistance with the complex.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her at Twitter@Sarawrites.