The Fields Advisory Committee of the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Facilities Joint Powers Authority recently went on a field trip to the various ball fields it plans on recommending Measure R money be allocated to on Monday.
The committee, which is responsible for recommending what ball fields in South Lake Tahoe should receive portions of $500,000 from Measure R, visited the softball field at South Tahoe Middle School, the Al Tahoe fields and the South Tahoe High School varsity softball field that is currently under construction. There was disagreement as to what modifications and additions would be appropriate for the field at the high school, which currently has two dugouts and a scorekeeper/snack booth built.
The seven committee members - Chuck Leonard, Marilyn Breisacher, John Dalton, Brian Hogan, Steve Noll, Ken Riegal and Steve Weiss - have yet to vote on any recommendation for the JPA, which meets on July 27. There does seem to be a general consensus with the Al Tahoe fields, and somewhat of a consensus with the softball field at the middle school, as to what improvements should be made at each site.
"I think I hear a lot of agreement at the Al Tahoe fields in terms of desiring to put in a third full-size field, youth baseball field, and, of course, still retain, of course, the openness for soccer purposes and all that kind of thing," said John Upton, the only paid staff member of the JPA. "Looks like a couple of the new fields, as well the rear of the two existing fields could be specced out for softball as well as baseball and still meet the soccer requirements, etc. Other than that new fencing along the road way, new bleachers and some (specialty) things like that.
"The softball field at the middle school, I think some arrangements need to be worked out, but I think the idea of isolating the fencing off and adding significant bleachers, covered dugouts, I think we still need to work out the specs, but I think I'm hearing some agreement on that."
Suggested modifications - listed on the June 25 FAC meeting cost sheet - at the middle school field include: larger and covered dugouts; new and more bleachers; fencing behind bleachers that reach to the edge of the parking area behind the backstop and first-base dugout. Replacing the backstop with netting like the Babe Ruth field and possibly extending the field so that it could be used as a second Babe Ruth field, are listed as considered modifications.
Changes listed in the same packet for the Al Tahoe fields include: construction of a new field; upgrades to two Little League fields, which would include bleachers, irrigation upgrades, and listed as optional is synthetic turf; construction of a T-ball field; replacing existing bathrooms.
In the packet handed out, there are also notes that suggest modifications by Breisacher, who represents the softball community in South Lake Tahoe. At the Al Tahoe fields, the softball community suggested that the full-size field, which is recommended to be built, be a convertible field, meaning that softball and baseball could be played on it. They also would like to move softball T-ball to the Al Tahoe location.
At the middle school softball field, Breisacher writes that the softball community would like permanent dugouts, access to the concession stand, batting cages constructed, the removal of the current scorekeeper shed, add parking to the empty space that sits along the right field line and tennis courts, a flag pole and speaker system. The notes also say the softball community would be in support of making the middle school softball field and Babe Ruth field convertible fields for baseball and softball, "to maximize the use of fields in Lake Tahoe for tournament play."
"Our JPA committee is about allotting funds and everybody keeps saying, some of the guys in the committee keep saying, 'this isn't about use of the fields, it's about where we are putting our improvements' and I think the issues are intertwined because, if you're going to improve a field, I want to know if that field is going to be accessible for softball," Breisacher said to the Tribune on Tuesday. "So I'm trying to make sure the money is spent equitably because the girls have not had the money over the last 10 years. The money has not been equitably spent toward the girls fields, so the girls have more dilapidated fields and I would like the girls to catch up."
Breisacher was in the middle of the disagreement at the high school varsity softball field. She raised concerns about the construction of the dugouts and scorekeeper shack, explaining that they do not allow the view and functionality the Babe Ruth field has. She said the 42-feet long dugouts limit seating capacity at the field and obstruct a full view of the field. The scorekeeper booth, which is a single story, does not allow for seating behind home plate, she said. Her recommendation at the field trip was to cut the dugouts shorter and modify the scorekeeper booth so that the scorer would be raised above spectators.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District facilities director Steve Morales told the Tribune during the field trip, "I am unaware of any reason that altering the existing built dugout has any benefit.
"I can tell you a second-level score shack would never happen. We can't afford that."
Morales said there will be full view of the field, except for maybe the top corner seats of the bleachers closest to the dugout, by pushing the field out about 10 feet. Weiss and Morales disagreed with the recommendations being made at the field trip, which led to tempers flaring and the adjournment of the meeting.
The FAC will meet one more time, July 16 at 4 p.m., before the JPA meets on July 27. Both meetings will be held at Lake Tahoe Airport. Upton thinks it is possible that the committee will make recommendations to the JPA for field improvements, though it is very possible they may not.
"I'm going to sure try. That's all I can tell you. I'm sure going to try, and I know the committee is going to try. At this point I'll be optimistic, I don't know. But I'm going to make every effort I can to see that the JPA either has a solid proposal or they're going to have a progress report. They will be meeting, they will have a regular meeting, they have two regular meetings a year, the other regular meeting will be in January, so there may be continuing work of the advisory committees after the JPA meeting in July to flush out more details," Upton said. "So probably the earliest projects going on the ground will probably be in the spring of 2013, so it wouldn't be a fatal flaw if we were just going to be in a mode of having a progress report and a discussion by the JPA as opposed to actually being able to go ahead with the projects.
"But the JPA in any event is going to have, based on my best numbers right now, they're going to have $500,000 available when they meet in July, of which is going to be split between the two purposes (ball fields and bike trails) and then actually it's getting out is going to depended on the details implementation are."
Even though the committee has met for five times and yet to approve any recommendations, and have had arguments, Upton feels the committee has made progress.
"I think the members might feel like they haven't got as much done as they wanted to, I'm not sure I feel that way. I think, you know it's a messy process. Anytime you have a discussion with people with difference of opinion it's going to be a messy process and I don't feel there has been a lack of progress from that perspective."