New Field Ready For Play

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Hickman High School is undergoing a $3.9 million renovation; nearly $700,000 of that went toward a new softball field.

But if you look around Hickman's campus, the field will be hard to find.

"Now we have a facility for softball here on campus which we never had," Columbia Public Schools athletic director Bruce Whitesides said.

The new softball field is actually in the exact same spot as the baseball field. The $700,000 went to resurfacing the field with FieldTurf, the same company that resurfaced Faurot Field.

Hickman's turf is different, though, as it is designed for baseball. The infield is not dirt, but brown turf. This allows the bases to be placed at the softball distance or the baseball distance.

Everything is portable; the fence, the bases, and the mound can all be relocated.

"The portable mound is moved out [for softball], and the softball rubber and softball bases are moved in to their permanent spot," Whitesides said. "You have a portable fence that's estimated about 200 feet out there. And we adjust the batters box for a softball batters box and we're ready to play."

The turf field has nearly eliminated rain outs. Whitesides says the 90,000 square foot field can withhold up to 10 inches of water per hour. 

"You know, we knew coming in that the turf field, you're going to be able to play when it's wet, so we knew all that coming in," Hickman baseball coach Dan Devine, Jr. said.  "But it has played better than what I expected it to be."

Devine says the players had to adjust to sliding. He says when the turf is wet, players can slide an extra few feet.

In the long run, Whitesides says the new field will save money.

"Well we eliminated a million gallons of water to be put on here, to water the field. We eliminated the man hours to mow it. We eliminated the man hours to line it. We eliminated the fertilizer costs," Whitesides said.

"Per year, we've [saved] close to 35,000 per year just on that."

The Kewpie baseball team began using the field in early March. The softball team has yet to use it, since softball season is in the fall semester.

However, Hickman athletic director Doug Mirts says the school has rented the field out to other teams, including the Auburn Tigers' softball team.

Columbia Parks and Recreation has considered the option of installing some artificial turf fields. However those considerations are preliminary. Parks and Rec director Mike Griggs says it's just too expensive right now.

He says the proposed plan called for 10-12 fields in a complex and would cost between $15 million and $20 million dollars. 

Griggs says the upfront costs are a negative, but maintenance is minimal. He says grass fields are much cheaper initially, but maintenance costs can fluctuate depending on the weather.

Whitesides says to rent Hickman's field costs $115 per hour during the day, and it costs $250 an hour with the lights.