Heritage Grant Could Lead To New Ball Fields

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Rumsey Park could become the recreational envy of sports enthusiasts from around the state.

For that to occur, the Payson Town Council and the Arizona State Parks Board will have to agree on about an $800,000 Heritage Fund matching grant that has been applied for by parks and recreation director Bill Schwind. The funds from the grant would be used to build two artificial surface, all-weather baseball/softball fields at the west end of the park and two playgrounds on a two-acre wooded parcel near the new basketball and volleyball courts.

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Town parks and recreation specialist Charlene Hunt and Steve Hansen of the town engineering department look over the Kiwanis ball fields at west Rumsey Park that could eventually have all-weather playing surfaces. For that to happen, a Heritage Grant must be approved by the town council and the Arizona Parks Board.

If those two facilities are ultimately constructed, Schwind predicts Rumsey will be turned into one of the finest parks in Arizona.

Schwind said he'll ask the town council to agree to the matching grant at its Feb. 10 meeting. He'll present his offer to the Arizona State Parks Board Feb. 27.

The Heritage Fund grant Schwind has applied for is similar to ones the parks and recreation department received when the Rumsey Park tennis courts and the two Fieldturf all-purpose fields were built.

If the council agrees to the matching grant, the town funds --about $400,000 --would come from the Park Development Fund.

"The council doesn't have to come up with any money," Schwind said.

Money in the Park Development Fund is acquired through new growth.

Schwind said that when building a new home in the town limits, homeowners are accessed about a $650 fee that is put into the development fund and can be used to improve or build recreational facilities.

Fields tops on parks list

Schwind said the two baseball/softball fields are a priority mostly because finding enough playing and practice diamonds has long been a problem for coaches and managers.

"The fields can be used by Little League, adult and youth softball and high school baseball," he said.

Both facilities would have more expansive outfields than the current cramped Rumsey facilities where the longest distance from home plate to the outfield fence is 285 feet.

"That's a pretty shallow fence. We need bigger fields," Schwind said.

The proposed east field would have a 330-foot outfield fence and the west would be about 300 feet.

The infields on the two diamonds would be enlarged from 65 to 90 feet making them suitable for both baseball and softball.

Also in the proposal is a shade and picnic structure, a batting cage and public rest rooms.

The fields now have backstops and dugouts, but the dirt playing surfaces make the two diamonds suitable for practice only.

New playgrounds

If the grant is approved by the council and the state parks board, about $75,000 of the money would be used to build two new playgrounds on the east side of the park in an area that has gone unnoticed.

"We have some nice wooded acreage in there we really didn't know about," Schwind said. "We started clearing it out and found out it was pretty nice."

Preliminary plans are to build two separate playgrounds. One would be designed for infants and toddlers and the other for older children.

If the matching grant is approved by the council, Schwind anticipates the state board will announce its decision in either June or July.

Construction, Schwind said, could begin in January 2006.

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