The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday will consider applying for a state grant worth up to $500,000 to install synthetic turf at Blankenship Field. It’s the first phase of a multi-million-dollar proposal to renovate Blankenship Field and Jack Armstrong Stadium.
The application that City Council will consider is a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The grant requires a 50 percent match, which would be provided by the nonprofit Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation. The requested grant funding could range between $250,000 and $500,000.
The Local Parks and Recreation Fund, or LPRF, grant provides state funding for parks and recreation development and capital projects, said Jon Hetrick, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks director. It requires the facility to be maintained as a public recreational facility and open to the public. Grant reports must be filed with the state every five years to document ongoing use as a public recreational facility.
The synthetic turf would replicate lush natural grass and require less maintenance than the current playing surface, Bermuda grass, Hetrick said. It would also increase playability, is more durable than grass, and eliminates the problem of spring and fall rains, advocates said. They said the synthetic turf could save 50,000 gallons of water per week during the growing season and lead to fewer injuries.
The estimated total cost of the project, including new ornamental fencing around the playing surface, is $1 million, according to a February 24 letter from the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation to City Council and City Manager Mark Watson. The Foundation could provide matching funds as either cash or in-kind services secured from private donors.
“This grant will enable us to expand usage of the facility to thousands of local residents for a variety of events and venues by creating a multi-purpose facility that will include music, sports, and community events,” the Foundation said in the letter. “The present condition of the field has limited opportunity for usage by the public for additional events.”
The Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation said the revitalization will complement other efforts to recognize the historical significance of Oak Ridge, including in the Jackson Square area and through the recently established Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
“This is the first phase of a multi-million-dollar vision of a state-of-the-are facility that will enable our children and our community to appreciate our history and prosper in the future,” said Randy McNally, chair of the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation.
Hetrick said the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation presented its proposal to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board in February, and the board supported it unanimously.
Hetrick said the city has previously received LPRF grants for ballfields and recreational facilities.
Other area schools are also considering or working on installing synthetic turf, including in Anderson and Knox counties. The Oak Ridge Wildcats played on two synthetic turf fields in 2015, one in Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett and the other in Sevier County.
So far, the work at Blankenship Field and Jack Armstrong Stadium has included:
- replacement of the visitors side bleachers and contouring of the east bank for $500,000 (Oak Ridge Schools);
- contouring and landscaping the north bank for $35,000 (Oak Ridge Schools and Oak Ridge Quarterback Club);
- installing visitors steps for $15,000 (Oak Ridge Schools); and
- renovating the Broadway Avenue parking lot for $250,000 (City of Oak Ridge).
Other projects included in Phase I include installation of an LED scoreboard with video and media options, a new entrance with ticket booths at field level, and new fencing, visitors concessions and restrooms, and home side bleachers and grandstand.
Phase II would include a new home side stadium with expanded locker rooms, press box, and club seating and communications.
The Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation is led by McNally and a board comprised of 18 other officers and directors: Operating Officer David Beck, Secretary Scott Underwood, Treasurer David Bradshaw, and directors Richard G. Chinn Jr., Christopher J. Corwin, Pete Craven, Joe Gaddis, Lawrence A. Hahn, Len M. Hart, Jim Helton, Mike Mullins, James T. Normand, Gregory S. Palmer, Phil Parrett, Jack Pope, James C. Powers, Jill Prudden, Nat Revis, Wayne Roquemore, and John Smith.
The Oak Ridge City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday, March 14, in the Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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