MANATEE -- Construction is slated to start March 11 on long-awaited Palmetto Little League ball fields, officials said Tuesday.
With necessary permits finally in hand, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker was able to set the date for the start of the $3.3 million project at Blackstone Park.
When he told county commissioners of the start date Tuesday, they were jubilant.
Last week, officials received permit approval from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the final document needed before construction could begin, said Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator.
Barring unexpected delays, the fields will be complete in time for the fall 2014 season, he said.
"I have heard we have very good news, they're finally willing to put a start date on this project," said Derek Goforth, president of Palmetto Little League, with about 160 players.
"We'll actually see something getting done," said Goforth, whose league has been without a home field now for four years.
Saturday is set for the league's opening ceremony for the spring season, and he hoped that next year, such an event could occur on the new playing fields.
The project calls for three new regulation Little League fields, a parking lot, a press box and concession building, bleachers, sidewalks, lighting and associated infrastructure at Blackstone Field, east and north of the Blackstone Park softball fields.
The county will pay for the project using Parks and Recreation Department impact fees; a $800,000 contribution from the city of Palmetto; and a $75,000 contribution from the Pittsburgh Pirates Foundation.
The former ballfields were eliminated after the city sold the land to the Manatee County School Board for the construction of a new Palmetto Elementary School.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.com.