New multipurpose field progressing at Hampton

Saturday, July 1, 2023 | 11:32 AM

Construction of the new softball/multipurpose field at Hampton High School is rounding second and — slowly but surely — heading for home.

Part of the district’s $17.4 million Phase One renovation, the field is expected to be ready for general multipurpose use in the summer of 2024 “at the earliest” and totally completed in time for the 2025 softball season.

“It’s going to be a while, truly,” Denise Balason, facilities chair on the Hampton School Board, said in early June. “Right now we’re just seeding and watering. The seeding process was delayed and then we’ve had such dry weather, which is causing further delay.”

The natural grass field is being constructed along Topnick Drive on the northeast side of the high school on a location previously known as Totem Pole field. The centerpiece of the facility will be a softball field with a scoreboard and dugouts, allowing the program to play on a district-owned property after playing for years at Hampton Community Park field.

“I think it’s really good that we’re finally moving toward a place where our softball team can practice and play games on a district field,” Balason said. “I think spring of 2025 is when it will be officially ready. But steps are being taken to get it ready.”

Said Hampton third baseman Mackenzie Reese, who will be senior in the fall. “It will definitely help, having our own field. Sadly, I don’t know if I will get to play on it.”

The layout — with home plate in the southwest corner at Topnick Drive and the softball field expanding toward the adjoining woods — will also include plenty of room for other Hampton organizations to practice or gather, Balason said. The field was previously home to the Hampton Ultimate Frisbee team.

“It should look pretty good,” said former Hampton athletic director Bill Cardone, who retired June 30. “Our goal obviously is to give our kids some of the best facilities to play on. Hopefully, we can get that.”

The school board had explored putting in an artificial surface field, which likely would have expedited its completion. But Balason said the surface was cost-prohibitive during the first phase of renovations, which included a major redesign of parking lots and the access road to the school as well as two additions to the high school and lighting and landscaping upgrades.

“We would have loved to put in turf,” Balason said, “but it’s not something we could afford with Phase One. Obviously, that would be ideal. But it’s not something we could do right now or right away.”

The construction schedule means the softball team will return to play the 2024 season at the nearby Hampton Community Park field, which is maintained and operated by the Hampton Athletic Association.

Former Hampton softball coach Ron Fedell, who in May stepped down after 23 seasons because of family matters, said a school district-owned field is long overdue. Because the community park field is also used by Hampton youth softball and baseball teams in the spring evenings, the high school team is often prohibited from practicing on the field due to a concern about maintenance and field conditions.

“They need to do something,” Fedell said. “There is no other Hampton team that has to depend on an outside organization to practice or play games. The field is long overdue for these girls. … There have been years where we didn’t practice at all on the field because they wouldn’t let us on it.”

Fedell estimated the Talbots were cleared to practice on the community field “maybe six times” during the 2023 softball season. The Talbots are forced to practice in the gymnasium or a school parking lot when the community park field wasn’t cleared, many times on otherwise sunny, dry days.

“It was very frustrating,” Reese said. “I just never really understood why we couldn’t be on the field. It was always something, and they would never give us a reason. They would just be like, ‘You’re not allowed on the field. It’s not ready.’ “

Said Fedell, “I want to beat my head against the wall. The kids deserve better. We’d go to practice and they’d say, ‘Coach, it’s 75 degrees out. Why can’t we be on a field?’ I tell them I wish I had control over it.”

Corey Casper, vice president of fields and maintenance for Hampton Athletic Association, said the McCully fields are maintained by volunteers, and “weather is the biggest determination” if they are playable or not.

Casper said each day either he or Steve Custer, the vice president of HAA upper-age baseball, checks the weather and visits the fields and makes the final call on their playability.

“We have to be careful with causing too much wear and tear,” Casper said. “There are certain factors that play into those decisions that make us say, ‘Hey, we can’t get on the field this day.’

“The first thing is injury. Safety is the No. 1 priority. The second is the actual playing surface itself, thinking what’s going to happen the next day and the day after.”


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