Improvements backed for Four Seasons Park in Hobart
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – The Village Board agreed Sept. 21 to make improvements at Four Seasons Park.
The board passed a motion to direct staff and the village engineer to design and provide cost estimates and options for the installation of two youth baseball fields and the construction of a second concession stand/storage/bathroom facility.
Staff will deliver those plans to the board for approval at later date, with the goal of a 2022 installation.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said the village’s Park and Recreation Committee put together a list of possible improvements at Four Seasons Park with the understanding the list could not be completed in a year, but require several budget cycles.
He said the improvements on the list include:
• Soccer field improvements.
• Additional baseball fields and improvements.
• Splash pad.
• Basketball court(s).
• Ice rink.
• Tennis/pickleball courts.
• Additional concession stand/bathrooms/storage.
• Additional parking.
Kramer said Public Works Director Jerry Lancelle worked with Robert E. Lee & Associates, which provides engineering services for the village, to put together a tentative layout and budget for the park.
“I can ensure you, we’re not here tonight to ask you to spend $2.4 million on Four Seasons Park,” Kramer said.
The $2.4 million budget estimates $853,125 for baseball improvements, $246,875 for soccer improvements, $225,313 for parking lot improvements and more than $1 million for other improvements.
Kramer said he received a letter from Jared Barker, a Hobart resident who is the head baseball coach for Notre Dame Academy and Southwest Legion, asking about the possibility of a partnership with the village.
Barker’s letter requested future use of Four Seasons Park, as well as interest in partnering on future fundraising to add additional amenities.
“A full-size baseball field along with two Little League/softball fields would be a great start to the upgrade,” Barker said.
However, Kramer said the committee’s recommendation for next year’s projects calls for two smaller youth baseball fields, rather than a field suitable for Legion baseball.
He said the reason is because those baseball fields would replace the existing field at the park, which would need to be replaced to install tennis courts in the area, and the field at Pine Tree Park, which will be removed in 2023 to accommodate the construction of a new fire station to replace the existing Fire Station No. 1.
Kramer said installing additional concession/storage/bathroom facilities would accommodate additional people using Four Seasons Park.
“People are going to want to have events so that they can possibly sell food for fundraising purposes,” he said. “So, really what comes first, the chicken or the egg? The committee’s position was we really need the bathroom facilities, the storage, which the Public Works Department will obviously use, and the concession (stand), before you put in all the other stuff, including soccer, splash pad.”
Kramer said “there was a bit of sticker shock” with the projected costs Robert E. Lee put together, such as the splash pad estimated at $275,000.
“That’s a lot of money to play in water,” he said.
Kramer said the two baseball fields planned for next year would have minimal amenities.
“If groups want to come and use it, we can certainly discuss fundraising, we can certainly discuss providing assistance,” he said.
Kramer said the village won’t spend $853,125 on three baseball fields, as listed in the estimates provided by Robert E. Lee.
“If you want to spend that amount of money, you’re going to have a beautiful facility with concrete dugouts, Major League lights,” he said. “This also includes – have you noticed – a batting cage, a scoreboard, bleachers – I don’t know how many people it will seat. Again, you get a Cadillac baseball complex. We’re not proposing that. We’re proposing a functional facility.”
Sponsors, naming rights
Kramer said the village doesn’t have a policy related to naming rights.
“I think we have to probably tackle that over the winter and put something in place,” he said. “Not to say we’re opposed to it, you want to have some guardrails for that process.”
Kramer said the village’s current available money at some point is going to run out.
“We don’t have $2.4 million,” he said. “We’re not proposing to spend $2.4 million at this point.”
Kramer said he also is not proposing at this point to add staff to take care of the improvements planned at Four Seasons Park, with the two new baseball fields being a “test run to see how it goes.”
“One of the things, I think, that has made Hobart a little more attractive is (having fields bring) tournaments, they can bring events here, they now have options,” he said.
Kramer said the village isn’t “going to turn the entire park into a baseball stadium.”
He said the eastern portion of the park will remain green space.
“We’re leaving that for people who want to run their dogs, people who just want to go out and have a picnic,” Kramer said. “It’s far enough away, and I know we lowered the speed limit in that area, as well, to make it safe. That green space, we’re trying to preserve it as much as possible.”
He said it would take about a decade if all the proposed park improvements as laid out would be put in place.
Lancelle said soccer will still be able to take place at the park.
“They can also use that concession stand, too,” he said. “Soccer comes out there now, and they have nowhere to go right now with concessions, bathrooms. This will benefit them, too.”