Washougal celebrates renovation of ballfields

$2.5M project added third ballfield, lighting, concession stand, restrooms to city’s George Schmid Memorial Ballfields

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An East County Little League softball team's players and coaches run to the fence of the new field at the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields in Washougal on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Photos by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

More than 17 years after its initial construction, Washougal’s youth baseball and softball complex is finally complete.

The city of Washougal and East County Little League (ECLL) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, April 22, to celebrate the conclusion of the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields construction project and the start of the 2022 Little League season.

The $2.5 million project added a third ballfield, paved the parking lot and added field lighting, a concession stand and restrooms to the complex.

“The completion of this project has been over 15 years in the making and brings this facility on par with other high-end facilities in the area,” Washougal Mayor Rochelle Ramos said during the April 22 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The fully constructed site provides necessary infrastructure to support league tournament play for teams from all over the county and state, bringing an economic benefit to Washougal-area businesses.”

Several other local dignitaries, including state Rep. Larry Hoff (R-18), state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18), Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton and Washougal School Board President Cory Chase, touted the project’s local and regional benefits during the April 22 event.

“We deal with a lot of issues in the legislature that aren’t necessarily fun. They are divisive in nature, and there’s always differences in opinion — but not when it comes to Schmid Ballfields,” Hoff said. “We were excited to see the completion of these fields. This is a happy thing. This is what makes us smile.”

Later, ECLL board members introduced the League’s local baseball and softball teams, allowing coaches and players to run onto the new field for the first time and gather for photo opportunities.

More than 400 players and 200 adult volunteers have signed up for the 2022 season, according to president Danielle Neumann. She said the League is fielding a record 42 teams this spring.

“This is such an important day for our city, our community and our Little League,” Neumann said. “Without access to shared city and school facilities, without our generous sponsors, and without the big and small efforts of all of our volunteers, our Little League community would not continue to grow and serve our kids in the greater Washougal community for a brighter future.”

The city of Washougal received $584,000 from the Washington House of Representatives capital budget and a $350,000 grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office for the project, and paid for the rest through park impact fees ($869,000), real estate excise taxes ($539,000) and the city’s general fund ($158,000).

The park and ballfields are located at 4855 Evergreen Way, Washougal.

Construction faced ‘challenges’

The city of Washougal and ECLL worked together to overcome some logistical issues during the construction process to ensure the third field would be ready in time for the start of the 2022 Little League season, according to Neumann and Washougal City Manager David Scott.

“While it is true that the challenges all of us have faced in the last year or two with supply chain issues and labor shortages have impacted the project, our partners at the city have clearly communicated updates and changes, and we have had clear lines of communication to address any questions or concerns we have had along the way,” Neumann told the Post-Record.

Neumann confirmed that ECLL volunteers offered to help finish the project.

In March 2021, the city awarded a $1.47 million contract to Vancouver-based Colf Construction to oversee the project, which included the construction of the third field, sewers, a water main, fencing, dugouts, a batting cage, an asphalt parking lot, concrete curbs, a sidewalk, lighting, landscaping and irrigation.

“It was a real privilege to be able to construct this facility,” Bob Colf, the owner of Colf Construction, said during the event. “It’s going to be a fine addition to the park. The main issues we had on the project were (related) to large rocks. Believe it or not, there is rock everywhere here. Everywhere you dig, there’s rock. But we were able to get through that and construct the park.”

Scott told the Post-Record that “some issues related to portions of the dirt playing surface and getting it to Little League specs — a long story dealing with soil mixtures, moisture content, compaction and weather” were resolved, and the city and ECLL “are confident that the field is safe and playable.”

“The contractor worked on this issue several times,” he said. “ECLL has an individual with a construction background who had worked on the two existing fields and had some expertise in this area who stepped up with a recommended special soil mix to try to get the issue resolved. It was the same mix that he had used on the other fields. The city and contractor agreed to split the costs of the material — about $2,000. ECLL volunteered to provide the labor to install the material.

“Due to supply chain delays in receiving materials for preparing the field, both the contractor and city thought this was the best way to get the field ready for the first games by April 11,” Scott said. “Given more time and drier weather, we believe the issue could have been resolved, but we were up against that deadline. It is not uncommon for issues to arise during construction projects. This is actually a great example of partnership to work through an issue to a successful resolution.”

“Once the beginning of the season and the end of the project started getting closer to each other and potentially overlapping, the league realized there was an opportunity to help,” she told the Post-Record, “so we offered to assist with final field repairs and finishing touches in order to ensure we were game ready.”

“We have volunteers who have years of experience with fields who stepped in to take this on, and as weather has permitted, our teams have been playing and practicing on the new field. While our league has had a very small part in this project to date, when we have had the opportunity to help out, we have volunteered to do so alongside our city partners.”

ECLL will continue to maintain and make additional improvements to the facility, according to Neumann.

“We are so excited to build on the great work that has already been done,” she said. “Our league is so excited for the new field and updated facilities, and the city of Washougal has long been a great partner to us.”