Whitefish Bay — The effort to construct a new girls softball field received $10,000 in assistance from the Whitefish Bay Village Board Monday night, putting the fund-raising committee that much closer to the estimated project cost of $450,000.
Located behind Whitefish Bay High School, along Ardmore Avenue, the existing girls softball field and adjacent practice field would be replaced with the same artificial turf used at Lubar Stadium and the new boys baseball diamond at Cahill Park. The dirt infield would be replaced with brown artificial grass. The proposal also calls for new dugouts, backstop and field fencing.
The Whitefish Bay Softball Steering Committee has so far raised more than $300,000 for the new field. The Whitefish Bay School Board committed $70,000 to the project last month. School district officials have estimated the replacement of natural grass with artificial turf would save the district $15,000 in annual turf maintenance costs.
Turf installation is expected to begin in July and last four months. The softball field will be moved 20 feet southwest of its current location, which would distance the field from the steep slope along the left field line. That slope has been somewhat of a safety hazard in recent years.
"I've seen a couple girls almost put out their backs running for balls, placing their foot into the side of the hill and jamming their backs,"said John Hankerd of the Whitefish Bay Softball Steering Committee. "It's just not a good arrangement."
Artificial turf also eliminates the unpredictability of natural turf conditions. Hankerd said winter thaw and spring rain typically make the field unsuitable for use during the beginning of the season, in late March.
The field also will give the JV softball team a practice field, as their old field at Cahill Park was recently converted into a retention basin. Hankerd said a new field will promote softball among local girls and enhance the team's chances of hosting tournaments, which it has never done before.
Trustee Carl Fuda, who did not cast a vote due to his involvement with the project, said artificial turf not only saves on maintenance costs but also provides a durable surface in a village lacking athletic fields. Because of the amount of youth sports groups in Whitefish Bay competing for the use of green space, Fuda said the athletic fields do not get the rest they need.
"We don't rest fields, and we're short a ton of green space," Fuda said. "The answer of the last land use study that was done is we should be building more of these types of spaces that can withstand the intensity of use."
The field also will be used as a practice field for high school football, high school soccer, Junior Dukes football, Junior Dukes fast-pitch softball and high school gym classes. Little league night games may also be played on the field.
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