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story.lead_photo.caption A fence is shown Sunday at Memorial Park in Bentonville. Visit Bentonville is partnering with the Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department to get new fencing around the ballfields at Memorial Park.

BENTONVILLE -- Steps by the city to create tournament-quality ballfields at Memorial Park should also keep players and spectators safer, city officials said.

Fencing at the park is in need of immediate replacement after years of use and thousands of practices and games played there, according to David Wright, parks and recreation director.

Memorial Park

Memorial Park, 401 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, has four softball fields, five baseball fields, 12 tennis courts, four sand volleyball courts, four basketball courts, 11 soccer fields, two T-ball fields, concession stands, restrooms, playground areas, a skateboard park, a walking trail and a covered pavilion.

Source: Bentonville Parks and Recreation

"It is easy to notice the bent and warped fencing throughout the park," he wrote in a memo to City Council last month. "The fence is well beyond its lifespan."

Visit Bentonville set aside money in its 2017 budget for the fence replacement. City Council accepted the organization's $107,550 for the project at the Sept. 19 meeting.

Most of the fence is original from when the park opened in 1992, Wright said Friday. All of it will be replaced with a more durable product.

Jason Holyfield, softball coach and vice president of the Bentonville Youth Softball League, said the fence is starting to come apart in places and the bottom is frayed, bending in and out. Having a new fence will increase player safety and help keep balls in play, he said.

The project also will bring all foul line and outfield fencing to a uniform height throughout the park, Wright added. There are currently areas where the foul line fencing is 4 feet high while others are 6 feet high.

Holyfield said a line-drive foul ball can quickly fly over a 4-foot fence and hurt someone, but balls hit over higher fences tend to be pop-ups and give people more time to react.

The city hired Anchor Fence of Springfield, Mo., to complete the project. Work is scheduled to begin in early November and be completed before spring 2018 events begin, according to Wright.

Upgrading sports fields is one of the initiatives in The Play Bentonville Plan, the Parks and Recreation master plan the city adopted this summer.

There also are plans for the fields to get artificial turf infields, which will help protect the fields from overuse and ensure games can be played in wet weather, officials have said.

"It'll just be a better experience for the kids all the way around," Holyfield said of the field upgrades.

The idea is for the infield work to start on the four softball fields by Nov. 1 and have them completed by mid-February, officials said. Work on the five baseball fields will start in the fall of 2018 and be completed by spring 2019. The projects have estimated costs of $694,000 and $867,000, respectively.

Visit Bentonville and the Parks and Recreation Department are sharing the cost for the infield projects.

The field upgrades may help Visit Bentonville recruit more softball and baseball tournaments to the city, especially as the turf infields will give teams more assurance games wouldn't be canceled because of rain, said Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and CEO.

The few college showcase tournaments the organization has been able to recruit over the last few years have been large events with many teams from multiple states playing over several days, which have a considerable economic impact to the city, she said.

NW News on 10/09/2017

Print Headline: Fencing added to ballfield upgrades

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