City spends nearly $8,000 to help drainage, improve quality

As the rain came down, the Havelock Little League faced a dilemma. As host of the 12-year-old District Tournament last spring, the league simply couldn’t play on its saturated field.

“We had to move the championship game to Newport to finish the tournament,” said Dave Bilger, president of the Havelock Little League.

Though there is no fighting Mother Nature, the Havelock Parks and Recreation Department is spending thousands of dollars in an attempt to improve drainage on its fields that host hundreds of children for soccer, baseball, softball, football and lacrosse. The goal is to keep the fields playable for the spring, summer and fall seasons while looking long term for field sustainment.

The fields take a beating each season from all the running and sliding, and on top of that, the fields generally don’t drain well in the low-lying area of the Havelock Recreation Complex off Fontana Boulevard.

That’s why one of the major projects by the recreation department involves the removal of existing dirt and the placement of a clay/sand mixture that should help with drainage.

“This allows us, especially for softball and Little League, to play games,” said Travis Adams, director of the Havelock Parks and Recreation Department. “This is something we’re going to be trying to do on a yearly basis.”

The cost of the work this year is $4,216 and is expected to be completed this spring.

“This will definitely not affect the season,” Adams said.

Fertilizer is also being put down on all of the fields at a cost of $3,654.

“We had the soil tested, and they indicated we had low levels of phosphorus,” Adams said.

The effort is appreciated.

“I can’t say enough about the good work those guys are doing out there,” said Ben Schreckengost, president of the Havelock Girls Softball League. “The Havelock Girls Softball league is very grateful for it. We’re hoping it’s going to be a great improvement out there, and it’s much appreciated.”

Schreckengost said the league had its share of rainouts last year and believes the new sand/clay mixture will not only help with that, but also help with safety of the players as well.

“It’s a lot better playing foundation as far as divots, ruts and all,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot better.”

Bilger got a look at the Little League field a couple of weeks ago.

“It looks beautiful,” he said. “It almost looks like a red mulch, but it’s dirt. I’m pleased. It’s become very expensive over the last couple of years to try to maintain these fields.”

Adams said the fields get a tremendous amount of use, but help is on the way. Work has started on what has been deemed a lacrosse field at Walter B. Jones Park, though it will likely see a variety of uses. The $50,500 cost is being split through city and Craven County funds.

Adams said the city would likely sod the new field, meaning it could be ready for use by the spring of 2018.

“We’d like to give it that one year to take root,” he said. “If we plant sod now, we still have to give it that one year. We feel we can put sod down and stay within budget.”

Adams said if seed was planted, two years would likely be needed before the field could be used, pushing the date to 2019. That may be too long to wait with the varied youth sports leagues competing for practice and game time on what few fields are available.

“Two seasons of every sport puts a lot of tax on these fields,” Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said.

City officials hope that the current fields that are available can hold up for another year, as the new lacrosse field could be ready for use in the spring of 2018. Work also continues on the new field off Lewis Farm Road, though an exact time on when that field will be ready for use has yet to be determined.

With a full complement of fields, city officials believe they could take one out of service for a year to work on its condition while having plenty left to accommodate play from the soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball and softball leagues.

The most likely candidate could be the full-size soccer and football field at the far back right of the recreation complex.

“To redo that would be at least one full season,” Lewis said.

Beyond the fields, the recreation department continues a bleacher replacement project. Twelve have been replaced this year, with the city and county splitting the $28,000 cost. Another six are expected to be purchased as part of the 2017-18 budget with the city paying the $14,400 estimated cost.

Long term, recreation staff is looking at improving drainage around the recreation center, which is causing some moisture issues with the basketball floor inside.

“At some point, we’re going to have to replace the floor,” Havelock City Manager Frank Bottorff said. “But first, we have to fix the drainage.”

Also long term, the recreation department is considering the placement of a single storage complex with separate units that will allow all the youth sports leagues a central location to store equipment. No cost estimate is yet available.

“This is a way for us to maximize our space,” Adams said.