WINCHESTER — The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is recommending approval of Shenandoah University's offer to manage two ball fields in Jim Barnett Park and financially assist with improvements to two others.
The proposal now goes to City Council for a final decision.
Shenandoah University (SU) submitted an offer to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department on Sept. 23 to assume management of Bridgeforth and Rotary fields with a promise to spend $3 million to $3.5 million on facility improvements and upgrades, including renovated dugouts, better press boxes, and new turf, fencing, lights, seats and scoreboards, bringing the fields up to NCAA tournament standards.
New covered batting cages would also be built next to Bridgeforth Field, and the university would help the city with mutually agreed upon improvements to Jim Barnett Park’s concession, parking and bathroom facilities.
Bridgeforth and Rotary fields would become home to SU's baseball and softball teams but remain available to other users, including Winchester Baseball and the Valley League’s Winchester Royals.
Additionally, SU would give the city $300,000 to improve Jim Barnett Park’s Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris fields for Handley High School’s baseball and softball teams. Upgrades would be made to seating, scoreboards, public-address systems, fences and press box facilities, and the university would support giving Handley the authority to manage the fields during the school’s baseball and softball seasons.
Also, SU is offering to provide city officials with “the funds reasonably necessary to start a mutually agreed upon youth sports program aimed at serving children from economically marginalized families in Winchester, and to operate the program for a period of up to five years,” the Sept. 23 offer letter from SU Senior Vice President Mitchell L. Moore states.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voted 6-1 Monday night to recommend that council accept SU's offer, but encouraged further discussion on four topics related to the agreement:
- Potential sharing of revenues generated by games.
- Ways to recoup lost revenues from concession sales at Bridgeforth and Rotary fields currently overseen by the Parks and Recreation Department.
- Determining if the improvements will fall under the ownership of Winchester or SU.
- Finalizing management and scheduling rights for Bridgeforth and Rotary fields.
Advisory board member Mike Miller cast the lone dissenting vote on Monday.
"All the major users of those fields — specifically the Winchester Royals, Winchester Baseball and Handley — have all commented how appreciative and thankful they are of Parks and Rec scheduling and maintaining those fields, and what a great job they've done," Miller said. "It's a very good example of something that has worked very well for a long time, and I think it's wrong to change it."
Moore thanked each of the board members, including Miller, for the time they've taken reviewing and suggesting changes to SU's proposal.
"I think we will do good by the city and good by the youth of Winchester," Moore said. "We realize it's a tremendous responsibility, and we will not let the advisory board down."
He said he is optimistic that City Council "will come up with a good solution so we can move forward as quickly as possible and let us get these improvements done."
Attending Monday’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting in the War Memorial Building were President Bill Stewart, Vice President Shelly Lee and members Hector Robertson, Andy Gail, Cal Allen, Mike Miller and Casey Stine. Regina Coates was absent.