A whole new ballgame

City of Washougal plans upgrades to George Schmid Memorial Ballfields

timestamp icon
category icon News
The renovation of the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields includes the addition of a third playing field. (Contributed illustration courtesy of the city of Washougal)

When George Schmid Memorial Ballfields in Washougal were constructed, they weren’t completely finished. There were originally supposed to be three baseball/softball fields, but only two were built. There is no concession stand or toilets or lighting or paved driveways.

All of that could be changing soon, as the City of Washougal is working to obtain the money it needs to complete the project.

A revised interlocal agreement with the Washougal School District, which owns the property the fields are on, calls for the construction of a third field in addition to a variety of other improvements. The agreement was approved by the city’s council members at their April 8 meeting.

In addition to building the third field, the city is looking to pave the parking lot, add water, sanitary and electrical services, permanent restroom facilities, lighting, and accessible paths and seating.

Washougal mayor Molly Colston said that construction could begin at some point this year.

“It will be fantastic,” said Mike Plinski, president of East County Little League, the primary user of the fields. “It will help make the venue more attractive to hosting tournaments, which would pull in families from outside the area, who would then support Washougal businesses. A nice sports complex could also be another attraction for families who want to move to the area.”

ECLL plays about 400 games each spring with between 28 to 34 teams and 360 and 400 players ages 4 to 13. The city claims that the rigorous league schedule puts a strain on Washougal’s field availability.

“It’s been a half finished project for 15 years now. We’d really like to be able to finish it,” Colston said. “We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. Last year at our city planning days, this ranked No. 1 priority as far as recreation and parks. We are very excited.”

The funding for the project will come from various sources.

Pending approval from the Washington State Senate and Gov. Jay Inslee, the city will receive a grant from the Recreation and Conservation Office Youth Athletic Facilities program for $350,000, and $584,000 from the Washington House of Representatives capital budget.

The city is also receiving $305,000 from the legislature as reimbursement for money it spent on Schmid Family Park. The city can reallocate those funds toward the ballfields.

Add it all up and the city has about $1.239 million for the project, which according to its latest estimates will cost about $2.6 million.

“The team is working on what that (money) can do and mix-and-matching different components, because (1.24 million) is obviously not going to do the whole project,” Washougal city manager David Scott said during a March 25 workshop meeting. “But it’s more than half, and obviously $1.24 million can make some significant improvements out there. We’ll have to see how we can parlay that, whether we would want to bring in any additional funding, (or if) the leagues (can do any) fundraising. We’ll do everything we can to get something there for the amount of money that we have.”

Currently the complex features two youth-sized fields with removable mounds to allow for softball. The adjoining space where the third diamond would be constructed is currently a grass field used for T-ball games.

The addition of a third field would greatly help ECLL with scheduling logistics, Plinski said. Two club organizations — the Junior Baseball Organization and Showtime Baseball Club — also schedule league games and practices at the Schmid fields.

ECLL plays games at Hathaway Park, Pendleton Fields, Bill Hamllik Park, Goot Park and Malfait Sports Complex in addition to the George Schmid fields.

“Right now we’re jam-packed for fields,” Plinski said. “Each team has to scratch one or two games a year because of rainouts that can’t get rescheduled. Practices are affected, too. Teams can’t get on the fields to practice as often as they’d like because field space isn’t available. Right now we’re spread all over the city, but it would be nice to have it mostly all consolidated in one place.”

The addition of lights would greatly increase the league’s scheduling options and make the complex much more attractive for major tournaments, according to Plinski.

“The lights are a huge thing,” said. “We could stack games up during the week and weekends. Plus, imagine being 8 or 9 years old and playing under the lights on a Friday night. That’s a cool feeling for the kids. It adds to the excitement and big-league experience. And the tournaments are a big deal in the baseball and softball worlds. It’s exciting to have all of that energy and all those people watching games at one venue.”

The addition of toilets and a concession stand would also “add to the experience for families,” Plinski said.

“Right now we have port-a-potties out there, and we all know how those go. To have flushable toilets where people can wash their hands, that’s one thing that people would expect,” he said. “Right now there’s no running water or electricity out there. Everything we do for food is trucked in, and we run things off of generators. Most parents get off of work at 5 p.m. and come to games hungry, so it’s nice to be able to order a hot dog or hamburger or a cup of coffee on a hot day. It wouldn’t be a huge money-maker, but it would be a nice convenience.”

The agreement with the school district is a consolidation of a series of similar pacts dated 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2016.

The new 25-year agreement calls for the continued use of the school district’s property by the city.

“It’s a way for us to have a really strong partnership. That’s why I think it’s important,” said Washougal School District superintendent Mary Templeton. “The fields get used and the city maintains them and we own them, and it’s a nice partnership. Think about who’s playing on those fields. It’s the youth. Every kid that has an opportunity to participate in an activity and be out there with other kids and building team and soft skills (such as) collaboration, coordination, problem solving — that’s what they’re learning over there on those fields — only benefits all of us in the school district and the community.”