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Plan Rethinks Hooes Ball Fields

After years of negotiating, an alternate plan was selected for the baseball and soccer fields at Hooes Road Park. Brainstorming between Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Springfield Youth Association and the Springfield Babe Ruth League produced a plan that includes another rectangular field added for a total of three and the relocation of the baseball backstop, creating a 90-foot baseball diamond for the first phase of the park improvements.

After examining all the options, the plan will now move on to the next stage of contract bid, according to Christine Tollefson, administrative assistant in Kauffman's office.

"This project's been around a while," said Fairfax County Park spokesperson Judy Pederson. "We're pleased it's moving forward."

For this phase of the project, six options were on the table ranging from $624,000 to $917,000. With the most expensive option, a parking lot upgrade was required, according to Tollefson. The parking lot expense put that out of reach for this phase, but it will still have to be enlarged to accommodate all the traffic related to the three soccer fields.

"They'll have to rotate because they won't expand the parking lot at this point. This is a phased project," Tollefson said.

The work on the ball fields is paid for partially by 1998 bond money, proffers and a public/private partnership with the Springfield Youth Club, Springfield Babe Ruth league and the Fairfax County Park Authority. According to Pederson, the Park Authority is contributing $300,000 from a 1998 park bond, the county is contributing $108,000 from proffer money, and the two youth groups are contributing the rest. Springfield Youth Club has already paid for the site plan engineering.

"The groups are going to cover the upgrade of the dirt and turf," said Pederson.

Originally it was thought this work would be done in two phases, but now it might take more. The county funding for the rest of the project will be from a bond that will be on the 2004 ballot.

REFURBISHING grass fields does take time, Pederson admitted. The contract will go up for bid this summer, work will be done in the late summer-early fall, and the fields will be ready for use next spring.

"At least one season, the fields will have to rest," Pederson said.

Kauffman looked forward to area teams getting a few more fields to add to the equation.

"It's been a challenge, but I'm very pleased it's coming together," Kauffman said. "I'm looking forward to having children out there enjoying the fields."

Once the Park Authority's contractors are done, Springfield Babe Ruth will make further improvements to the baseball diamond, including upgrading the dirt and turf and installing dugouts and bleachers. Babe Ruth's contribution is $70,000.

Shannon Coffey, president of the Springfield Babe Ruth League, hopes that the ballplayers will finally have a 90-foot baseball field they can call home. They've been playing at South Run Park and high-school fields in the past. The Hooes Road Park project has been looked at for eight years.

"That will be nice for the kids," Coffey said. "Five or six years ago is when they raised the $70,000. It's been sitting there."

In addition to parking-lot improvements in future phases, other park improvements include a new picnic and playground area, a new trail connecting to trails off-site, and field lighting on two of the rectangular fields and the baseball diamond.