District ball fields likely back to BESIC site
It turns out last week’s curveball thrown at the new ball field complex might have been a fastball.
Just a few days after the Baldwin School Board was updated on the availability of the Ralph Ruhlen property north of Baldwin High School, it now seems that land won’t be large enough. The DLR Group architects informed the bond issue’s steering committee of the change in plans last Thursday.
“At this point, I would say it’s not etched in stone that it’s likely to happen,” Supt. Paul Dorathy said. “Right now, it doesn’t look promising that we would be able to make that move.”
Under the recently approved $22.9 million bond issue, four new baseball and softball fields would have been built near Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center. However, the board decided to look into moving the fields to the Ruhlen property, which the district purchased several years ago.
Adjacent to the land, is the current BHS soccer field and current ball fields. The ball fields will be torn out as a practice track and new soccer field will take up that space. That left the rest of the Ruhlen property to be used for the new fields.
“The ball fields will not practically fit,” Dorathy said. “You could squeeze them in there, but you would have no room left for parking, concession stands or even trying to fit a road into those ball fields. It appeared to be extremely impractical to fit those on there.
“In fitting those on that land, there would have to be an extensive amount of dirt work done in order to make it work,” he said. “It was enough dirt work that it would go beyond the budget that we have to work with.”
Dorathy added that the steering committee discussed the idea of adding two additional fields on the Ruhlen property. However, that wouldn’t happen with this bond issue, but maybe at a later date.
“They did consider an option where we might be able to put a couple of fields there in the future,” Dorathy said. “The coaching staffs felt very strongly that the four fields we are considering now needed to be together, because they wanted the teams to be there at the same time. We did consider that a varsity baseball and varsity softball field would fit there in the future. It would not be for this bond issue. One of the things we know is that the community has been asking for more fields than the four we have, so we could look at adding more fields in the future.”
The new development in the construction of the ball fields also meant a change in plans for the new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and Early Childhood Center. The committee talked about moving the building from the southwest corner of the property west of town to the southeast corner.
That move would put the new BESPC just south of the current BESIC. It would cut the cost of installing a new sewer line, but that location would create several problems.
“Those two kind of go together,” Dorathy said of the ball fields and the new BESPC. “We considered that move, but we also looked at traffic patterns in putting those two schools next to each other. There were some pretty significant challenges on how our buses would move from one building to another. There is also the issue of the exterior of the buildings looking very different. Plus, a big challenge would be putting the ball fields up on the hill.
“The other thing is if you were to put the school where we did the dirt work for the ball fields, we’d still have to come in and do quite a bit of dirt work and compaction,” he said. “You’d have to bring all of that up and put in a base to support a building. So the dirt work done wouldn’t help support the school anyway. “When you go through and start talking about all of these issues, you find out here’s why this was designed this way in the first place.”
The final update from last week’s steering committee meeting centers around the design of the new BESPC. Dorathy reported the committee visited several area schools DLR designed and it found one that might work. The committee favored Prairie Creek Elementary School in the Spring Hill district.
“Rather than a double-loaded corridor, which is what we have, that school is a pod system,” BESPC Principal Deb Ehling-Gwin said. “They have four classrooms around a discovery area. Teachers within that area could have small groups, individual students or could take the whole group out for a different type of lesson.
“With the youngest kids, we feel a need to serve as kind of a bridge from home to later schooling,” she said. “So if we’re in smaller groups and a more home-like atmosphere, we think that will lead to greater staff collaboration, as well as, maybe being more inviting for families.”
If the architects are able to alter the school’s design just enough that the committee is comfortable approving it, Dorathy said money and time can be saved on the project.
“If we like what they bring back, I’m guessing that’s the direction we might go,” he said. “It will save us quite a bit of money, because it will save time and design costs. Then it will save us time in completion of the project, because the design phase would be much shorter than planned. Then we can move forward with bidding, getting contractors here and getting started.”