WINCHESTER — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Shenandoah University to alter its plans for renovating baseball and softball fields in Jim Barnett Park.

A joint statement released Friday morning by the university and the city of Winchester confirms the delay but provides few details:

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenandoah University has had to revisit a number of its capital projects. One of those projects is the baseball and softball field renovations in Jim Barnett Park. This project will still be moving forward, but some scheduling changes have resulted due to the pandemic. As such, the city of Winchester and the university have been working together to define a new timeline that will separate the renovation into a series of phases."

In January, City Council agreed to give SU oversight of two ballfields in Jim Barnett Park in exchange for millions of dollars in improvements to four of the park’s baseball and softball diamonds.

According to the terms of the 40-year deal, SU will have management and scheduling rights for the park’s Bridgeforth and Rotary fields, which then become the home fields for the university’s baseball and softball teams. In return, SU will spend $4.5 million to fund improvements to the park’s Bridgeforth, Rotary, Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris baseball and softball fields.

Renovations to Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris will cost approximately $600,000. SU will front the first $350,000, then keep 100% of concession sales from Bridgeforth and Rotary until it recoups the remaining $250,000. Once that amount is collected, the university will then give 35% of all concessions to the city to make up for the revenue the park is losing by sacrificing its ability to rent Bridgeforth and Rotary to other users.

The improved Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris diamonds will become the official home fields for Handley High School’s baseball and softball teams, while Bridgeforth and Rotary will receive approximately $4 million in upgrades so they can meet NCAA tournament standards with renovated dugouts, better press boxes, artificial turf playing surfaces, batting cages, and new fencing, lights, seats and scoreboards.

All four fields will remain available to other park users, including Valley League baseball teams and the Winchester Baseball youth league, when they are not needed by SU or Handley.

Originally, SU planned to start work on Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris this spring, and Bridgeforth and Rotary in August. All work was expected to be finished no later than the end of 2025.

Now, it remains to be seen when the renovations will begin and end.

According to Friday morning's statement, "More information will be forthcoming when the timeline has been finalized."

This is the university's second setback in less than a week. On Tuesday, City Council decided not to pursue state funding for a $3 million pedestrian bridge that would have linked SU's main campus to the front of the former Clarion Inn and Conference Center at 711 Millwood Ave., which the university is leasing for the next three years to use for student housing and food services.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(10) comments

Chris 22602

The university employees 1,200 with an economic impact of $160 million. What would happen to Winchester if you suddenly had 1,200 unemployed people, selling their homes and moving (faculty can’t just find a local job). Overnight, $160 million leaves the local economy. Hotels become obsolete, restaurants fail, and the retail around campus collapses without shoppers. This is the future without SU. They’re not the bad guy, they’re one of the largest employers in town and they are trying to grow and add more jobs bringing more money into the area (most SU students come from other areas, this brining outside dollars to the local community). Every attempt to shoot them down is a move to slit your own throat.

Steve Cunningham

You prove the point that most taxpayers agree on, SU is economically viable enough to support their own capital improvement projects without pushing the burden of campus and school upgrades to the area taxpayers.

Conservative

Nobody wants to shoot them down. However, SU made a decision to throw Harry F. Byrd Jr. under the bus after he warned them this would happen when they approached him about naming the business school after him. They chose to ignore it and concentrate on the good he was doing in the present while he was acknowledging and publicly regretting his negative past mistakes. Because some little crybaby complained, SU tried to ERASE what Mr. Byrd had done for SU and the community, and instead focus on his past transgressions for WHICH HE PUBLICLY APOLOGIZED FOR. So, in my opinion as well as thousands of others, the fact that SU has yielded to the minority that cries racism when they don't get their way, SU MUST return EVERY PENNY that Harry F. Byrd Jr. and his family EVER gave to the University. Any attempt to bypass that is a move to slit their own throat in this community. SU can kiss my rear end until they either return Harry F. Byrd Jr's. name to the Business School, or they can return his money. Anything else is unacceptable, I don't care how many people lose their jobs.

Violet

SU is slowly taking over Winchester

Milt McInturff

Does this really surprise anyone? This is SU’s way of saying no bridge, no field renovation!

Conservative

Then no more support from the community. Shut them down.

CTJINVA

Honestly, I expected this. Can Winchester negate the deal now before this gets any worse?

Dadof3

I’m not surprised to hear this. While I have no doubt the pandemic has hurt their revenue, And I’m sure their fundraising is down too due to the pandemic and their self inflicted wound by removing Senator Byrd’s name from the business school.

Maybe since Shenandoah cannot fulfill their part of the contract, the city could renegotiate a better deal.

coachmilburn

Wonder how this has impacting staffing within WPRD? Who is in charge of field scheduling for Rotary and Bridgeforth fields now that SU was suppose to take control of on August 1st?

Steve Cunningham

I would imagine that not much since coronavirus has the park basically shut down for the summer. With the few teams allowed to access the park and fields, WPRD can probably handle the small workload of scheduling fields.

However seems like during this time of athletic shutdown that SU could have agressively undertaken this project to have the entire project completed before the Spring seasons commence. Their delay in implementing this project will just cause more issues down the road.

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