City approval needed in next phase of Palmetto Little League fields

nwilliams@bradenton.comJanuary 5, 2013 

PALMETTO -- The City Commission will receive the much-anticipated site plan next week for the Palmetto Little League's new ball fields.

City planner Lorraine Lynn will present commissioners with the site plan Monday for expansion of Blackstone Field at Blackstone Park on 14th Avenue West, where three regulation-sized fields are planned for the Palmetto Little League, formerly known as the North River American Little League.

The expansion is set for the northeast end of the fields along 23rd Street West and also will include a parking lot, press box, concession building, bleachers, sidewalks and lighting.

In September, the Manatee County Commission OK'd an estimated $3.3 million plan for construction of the fields in Palmetto.

Once approved, the county can move forward with putting the earthwork and construction of the concession building and lighting out to bid. Though the land is owned by the county, the facility must meet city code requirements.

"The city is very much in support of this project," Lynn said.

Lynn said slight modifications were suggested to the proposed site plan. A 20-foot wide paved surface for fire truck and ambulance vehicle access near the concession building can be reduced

to 12 feet, along with adding a sprinkler system for the building. In addition, the expansion calls for 150 parking spaces, which exceeds city requirements. Seating may be less depending on the final selection of bleachers.

The new facility will be served by county water coming from the north and city reclaimed water and sewer. The utilities require adding a lift station.

Since 2009, the Little League has played at the two adult softball fields at Blackstone Park. Derek Goforth, president of the Palmetto Little League, is happy to hear the project is in motion.

"Over the last couple months we've seen some survey stakes," he said. "It seems like we're finally getting somewhere. We've been waiting to visually see something."

Choosing a location for the new fields delayed the project. After Palmetto officials sold the Little League's previous home to the county school board for a new elementary school in 2009, the city considered buying about 10 acres of land between 11th and 14th avenues west, but the price for the land was more than the city could afford.

In August 2011, Goforth suggested at a city commission meeting that two additional fields be built at Blackstone Park, but a consultant hired to survey the proposed site discovered arsenic and a residual pesticide on the property as a result of previous farming.

The final scenario consisted of building new softball fields at Bennett Park in East Manatee, and relocating adult players to that location, and then converting Blackstone's two softball fields into Little League fields.

Officials realized that option would have cost a couple hundred thousand dollars more than remediating the contaminated soil and would have required about 25 months to complete.

The county ultimately decided to remove the top layer of existing soil by hauling it to the Lena Road landfill and exchanging it for clean fill that will serve as a buffer. Remediation of the top six inches of soil increased the project cost from $2 million to $3.3 million.

The city of Palmetto has agreed to contribute $800,000 toward the cost of the complex, with county park impact fees and community partnerships providing the rest of the money. "We have no issue with them doing it there," Goforth said. "The field we're playing on now is also probably contaminated because it was all an orange grove."

The Palmetto Little League season starts in March. Goforth said the club decided to change the name because it "more presented the area we service."

Construction for the complex is expected to begin this summer and to be completed by 2014.

Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.

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