A ball field that largely hasn’t been touched since it was installed four decades ago at Veterans Park in North Riverside is undergoing a total makeover as a result of a partnership between the village of North Riverside and Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Last week over at Field 1 – the northwest-most field at the park — crews framed out the areas for concrete pads for new dugouts as well as a larger concrete pad along the first-base line for a new set of bleachers. In addition, workers installed poles for a new 18-foot tall backstop as well as protective fencing for the dugouts along both baselines.
“It brings the field up to date with the other fields,” said North Riverside Public Works Director Tim Kutt. “It’s more set up for a regulation high school field and really benefits Little League. It’s more spacious, accessible and user-friendly.”
Two other fields at Veterans Park were renovated about 15 years ago when the village installed a fourth field – the one closest to Veterans Drive – to accommodate a growing Little League program.
The total cost of the renovation is expected to be in the neighborhood of $30,000, with $22,250 of that total coming from Riverside-Brookfield High School as part of a facilities-sharing agreement between the school and village.
Back in 2013, both entities inked a deal, which renews automatically each year, providing RBHS the use of Field 1 for its girls softball program. The lower-level boys baseball team uses the regulation-size field adjacent to Field 1.
In exchange, North Riverside residents are allowed to use the RBHS swimming pool free of charge one day a week. The high school also occasionally provides bus transportation for the village’s preschool program.
“It’s a real win-win,” said North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. of the arrangement.
The RBHS school board voted to approve the expense and amend its facilities-sharing agreement with the village on Oct. 23. The amended agreement states that if the village terminates the deal prior to June 30, 2029, RBHS will be reimbursed for the cost of the fence on a pro-rated basis.
Chicago-based J&M Fence submitted the lowest proposal for the work, which included removal of the existing fence and installing the new one. Demolishing and re-pouring the concrete pads as well as work restoring the field itself was handled by village public works employees.
The high school sought off-campus homes for its baseball and softball programs in 2013 after years of frustration regarding access to fields adjacent to the high school. Those fields, immediately north of the campus, are on land owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
While the high school can use those fields, their use is limited when Brookfield Zoo needs additional parking, which can be unpredictable. High school officials continue to negotiate with the Forest Preserve District to obtain exclusive use of the fields, but there’s been no agreement to date.
Field 1 was originally built for T-ball age kids, and the dimensions of the backstop, dugouts and protective fences reflected that. The improvements will increase the dimensions of each dugout to 40-by-5.5 feet, protected by an 8-foot high fence along the third-base line and a 12-foot high fence along the first-base line.
The dugout and backstop fences will be moved about 9-feet farther away from the field of play.
A higher fence along first base was chosen to add protection for spectators in the new bleacher area, which will be immediately north of the first-base dugout, instead of behind it. There will be no seating area down the third-base line, which backs up to the Canadian National railroad right-of-way.
In addition to being home to RBHS softball, Field 1 will also be used for 10-under Little League softball and baseball, said Kutt.