Burros get new baseball field

Work is continuing on the new baseball field near Fairplay which will serve as home to the South Park Burros baseball program. Seen above, holes are being dug for peers to support backstop uprights. The project is scheduled for completion by late this summer. (Photo courtesy of Park County School District RE-2)

A process that started in 2009 has finally come to fruition, resulting in a new baseball field, complete with synthetic turf, to be completed late this summer and to be utilized by Park County School District RE-2.

The South Park Burros’ new home baseball field might enjoy the distinction of being the highest elevation baseball diamond with a synthetic turf outfield in the nation. The long and arduous process began in earnest Jan. 21, 2009, when a presentation was made to the Board of Education regarding the possibility of applying for a Building Excellent Schools Today grant for the renovation and new construction of the Fairplay campus.

The district, using a competitive proposal process, awarded Larson Incitti Architects and Saunders Construction contracts to develop a conceptual design and budget estimate for the work. The BEST grant application was submitted in June 2009 and the district was awarded the grant in August 2009.

A successful bond election in November of 2009 financed SPSD RE-2 financial responsibility of 50 percent of the amount of the grant. Unfortunately, the State of Colorado delayed the funding of the grant until April 2010.

This delayed the architect from starting work on the construction documents. The time to develop the plans and a decision to not start construction in mid-winter in Fairplay further delayed the start of construction until April 2011.

The entire process suffered numerous delays for various reasons involving location and funding until 2014, when a grant sponsored by the South Park, Parks and Recreational District with Park County School District RE-2 as a partner, was applied for and awarded by Great Outdoors Colorado, for design and construction documents for the development of 12 acres adjacent to the high school football field.

Additional participants in the grant were the Conservation Trust Fund, South Park Community Recreation Center Inc., Fairplay Youth Sports, Design Concepts, and Burnett Surveying.

A contract was awarded for the design and construction documents to Design Concepts. The Athletic Complex plans were completed in June of 2014.

Additional funding issues, however, stymied progress again until a 2019 meeting was held with Fred Marvel and Theron Olsen of the Brannan Companies regarding their interest in the Fairplay community and school that related to the construction of the ball diamond.

As a result of that meeting, Brannan Companies made a generous in-kind material donation.

The final and complete excavation, as well as preparation of the rough grading of the baseball diamond, was completed by Andrew Steinberg Inc. in the fall of 2019.

At that time, however, there was still a gap in the funding to go on further with the project. Once again a meeting was held with Fred Marvel, Theron Olsen with the Brannan Companies and Jim Coleman with Coleman Trucking regarding the status of the baseball diamond project.

As a result of the meeting, Marvel, Olsen and Colemanwere willing to contribute a generous donation if there was a matching donation by the district. The details were worked out and there were enough funds to complete a basic baseball diamond infield mix, home plate, bases, pitchers mound, synthetic turf outfield, warning track, back stop, minimal surround pathways, and perimeter fence around the field.

The encouragement of interim District Superintendent Cindy Bear resulted in the continuation of construction on the baseball field in late April. Currently, the installation of the backstop is occurring, the ball diamond is being prepared for installation of the infield mix, under drains are being installed, and storm sewers are being constructed.

Later this summer, the synthetic turf will be installed and the fencing around the field will be completed.

Currently, there is not enough money for dugouts, a bullpen, batting cage fencing, press box or scoreboard. In the future, additional funding will have to be raised to complete final phases of the project.

The project was overseen from its inception by retired contractor and longtime Fairplay resident, Charlie Schultz. Throughout the process, Schultz kept momentum going, oversaw the specifics of construction and tirelessly helped to procure funding and create enthusiasm for the new field.

“The ‘Field of Dreams’ has taken six years to get to this point,” said Charlie Schultz. “There have been several starts and stops from the very first of the project. It would have never happened without the patience of the neighbors, efforts of many individuals, resources of funding, and the generous donations of the Brannan Companies and Coleman Trucking, which ultimately moved the baseball diamond off center and to the expected completion by the end of the summer.”

Schultz said throughout the peaks and valleys associated with getting the field approved, funded and constructed, he never once doubted that it would eventually come to fruition. The timeline, however, has been admittedly longer than he imagined.

“I knew it would get done, but I didn’t think it would take so long,” Schultz said.

“Former Superintendent Joe Torrez and current High School principal and Athletic Director, Kyle Graff, were instrumental in getting this done. Joe played baseball in high school and college, so he was motivated to get the field completed.

“New superintendent Cindy Bear has been extremely supportive, too. But it’s also important to note that the field absolutely could not have come to fruition without the assistance of Brannan Companies. Their generosity was absolutely vital to the field’s completion.”

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