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Bay baseball field moves forward after School Board approval

District to kick in $150,000 for Cahill facility

Nov. 18, 2012

Whitefish Bay - The Whitefish Bay School District agreed last week to pitch in $150,000 for an updated baseball field at Cahill Park.

The School District is the third player in a public-private partnership with the village of Whitefish Bay and the Friends of Bay Baseball, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support the village's baseball program. This money will go toward a $400,000 project to build an upgraded baseball field with a field turf projected to last more than 25 years. The current field is maintained by the School District for $10,000 to $15,000 each year because the Whitefish Bay Blue Dukes baseball team uses the field for games, said Director of Business Services Shawn Yde. Baseball, he said, is historically the district's least expensive sport.

The $150,000 will come out of the district's capital reserve fund.

School Board policy recommends having 14 to 18 percent in financial reserves. The current reserve level is 22.83 percent.

Stormwater project triggered upgrades

FOBB spearheaded the project because the current baseball field will be torn up in spring as part of the village's $11 million stormwater detention project at Cahill Park.

The Village Board approved the design for the upgraded baseball field in the beginning of November. The design includes a field turf infield and running track, natural grass outfield, new scoreboard in right field and permanent concrete curved around the backstop area. The Village Board also approved allocating $50,000 of village funds for the project, as well as taking care of all infrastructure work, Carl Fuda of FOBB said.

FOBB plans to privately raise an additional $200,000 for the field by September 2013. Half of that money goes toward the artificial turf, the other half will go toward amenities such as the dugouts. The school district's money will go specifically to the artificial turf, foul lines and a warning track.

"The village has agreed to fund all of the ground work," Fuda said.

As part of the School Board vote, the money allocation is contingent upon the approval of a usage agreement with the village of Whitefish Bay of not less than 25 years.

The School Board approved the funds in a 4-1 vote, with Anne Berleman Kearney voting against the proposal. Marie Greco and Michael Mosner were absent from the meeting.

"I have some real concerns about this," Berleman Kearney said. "I'm really impressed with what Friends of Bay Baseball have done, but it's a lot of money on land that we don't own. I think $150,000 is too much to spend on a baseball field."

Saves on maintenance costs

School Board member James Phillips said there is a payback to the project since the district will end up saving in maintenance costs in the long run.

"This is more like making an investment at a time when there are more reserves as opposed to the future when we have less certainty," he said.

Berleman Kearney was also concerned what will happen should FOBB fail to raise the full $200,000. Fuda said he never thought that was a possibility and is confident all the money will be raised. Should the money not be raised, FOBB will cut out some of the amenity items in the project design, he said.

School Board President Kathy Rogers supported the project, saying this is an opportunity to give the students who play baseball the same level of safety students in other sports have.

"It's not the students' fault we don't own the property and the students should have a field that's as safe as if we could provide one here," she said.

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