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Hart Park ballfield finished under budget

But some say there are still improvements that need to be made

June 27, 2012

Improvements to the Hart Park softball diamond came in $10,000 under budget, so the money was returned to the city's coffers.

However, softball players have wondered why those dollars weren't spent to make some of the changes they had been told didn't make the initial project budget.

"It's more surprise and frustration on our part," said Scott Reidel, a softball player who has been advocating for improvements to the ballfield. "We had $40,000 to do renovations and we turned $10,000 away."

The money for the project was specifically to renovate the infield, which included replacing the drainage system, Parks and Forestry Superintendent Ken Walbrant said. When the drainage system was deemed in good condition, the money went back to the city's general fund.

Players have pitched in

Reidel said it was a bit of a slap in the face to the organizers of HartFest, who put on a softball tournament at last year's HartFest that raised $1,000. As owner of Wauwatosa-based Reidel Sports - an athletic uniform and apparel business - he added another $2,000 of his own money and now the field has an electronic scoreboard with a timer.

There was no money in the budget for a scoreboard at the time, so then-mayor Jill Didier asked Reidel to raise funds.

"I saw it as an opportunity to get this field to where it should be," Reidel said. "Mayor Didier worked to make this a gem of the city, and we thought this was part of it."

He and fellow HartFest board member Andy Mann are quick to point out that they're grateful for the improvements that have been made.

"The field had a bit of a tilt when the fence and retainers weren't there," Reidel said, explaining that rivers of mud poured off the field and under the bleachers when it rained.

More left to do

But there were a few design and safety aspects he pushed for from the get-go that didn't occur, and he was under the impression the city couldn't afford them.

HartFest organizers want to replace bulbs in the lights over the field. Right now, some lights are white and others are orange, and they cause players to lose track of the ball, Mann said. This year's HartFest tourney raised another $1,000 for that purpose, but Reidel said he has yet to hear back from city staff.

In addition, the fence was meant to run a few feet farther to the light pole to block spectators.

"If people come to watch and bring the kids, we want to make sure they're safe," Reidel said.

They also worry about field maintenance. One player tore open his leg sliding into base, and another received a cut above his eye from a ball kicking back on the hard ground.

George Haas, Parks and Forestry Board member, provided city staff with suggestions last week from a consultant on how to drag and water the field so it provides a better playing surface.

HartFest, Tosa East girls softball and the Recreation Department softball leagues use the field at this point. If the diamond was in top condition, it could be booked for tournaments, Haas said.

Board member Lisa Blair said city staff members have to balance their workload and that may mean the ballfield isn't always perfect.

"This isn't a country club," she said. "It's still a city park."

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