Park city in a field divided
Friday afternoon, the Park City High School varsity baseball team is scheduled to host its first home game of the year, but it won’t happen.
It’s the same story every year for most Miners spring sports they play weeks worth of away games until the snow melts and then, finally, mid-season, they are able to come home.
But this year’s baseball team may not have any home games.
"I’m betting we’re not going to have a home game," Miners head coach Buster Schwab said.
Schwab has a pretty good reason to be discouraged. As part of the high school remodeling project, a trench was dug through left and center field a bit of problem for playing a baseball game.
The result is a frustrated team and employees of the Park City School District and Park City scrambling to figure out how to remedy the problem around an unpredictable weather schedule.
According to Clint Dayley, Park City parks and golf supervisor, the trench was dug before his department was alerted.
"The timing of it — they pushed it through and we weren’t notified of it," Dayley said.
Dayley added that he was not sure how the contractors came up with the routing.
"I don’t know the ins and outs or why they did what they did," Dayley said. "It’s unfortunate for the kids, because they are the ones that lose out."
For the Miners, that is the bottom line. Regardless of the when’s and why’s, they likely will not return to their home field this year. Logistically, this forces the team to play at the home site of the other team they are playing or at a neutral site for teams too far away, such as region foes, Union and Uintah. With just a few weeks left before the playoffs, rescheduling is not an option.
But the real loss is intangible.
"For the juniors and seniors, they have been looking forward to playing here and for away games, we get parents and that’s it," said Schwab.
A familiar field and student support means a lot towards winning, but that luxury has, more or less, gone down the trenches for the Miners.
Time and lack of communication between all involved parties, also has emotions running high and no clear picture of when the field will be finished.
"Park City and the Park City School District are working hand-in-hand to get it up and going as soon as possible," Oliver said.
According to Park City School District director of support services, the actual fix to seal up the trench would only take about 10 days, but finding two weeks of dry weather has been impossible. Once the rain or snow stops, then the field needs to dry for a few days before they can begin working on it again.
"The weather conditions have been a big problem for the parks department," Dayley said.
Along with the efforts of the City, the school district has hired contractor High Peaks to help speed along the process. Once the inclement weather has subsided for a few days the original soil must be removed and new soil brought in and compacted. Then the pipe in the trench can be connected to the existing water lines, the hole filled and sod laid over the top. The soil is the biggest holdup. According to Dayley, the existing soil is too rocky and not in compliance with the city soil ordinance for quality level. The task of carrying out the soil requires using trucks and small construction vehicles, all of which are heavy and will sink into the ground when it’s wet. The sinking phenomenon, called rutting, is what concerns Dayley and Oliver most. Leaving holes and tire marks in the field would lead to uneven patches once the trench was patched up and re-sodded.
"The trench seam will disappear, but the rutting will never disappear," Dayley said.
Dayley says he feels horrible, but he believes waiting is the right answer.
"It better to lose a couple of games now then deal with the issue long-term," Dayley said. "It needs to be done right the first time."
In the meantime the Park City recreation department has adjusted one of the softball fields at Treasure Mountain International Middle School to be appropriate for baseball. Unfortunately, it will not work for high school baseball.
Schwab is skeptical about the whole process. He is dismayed that he was never forewarned of the impending dig, and says that after numerous days of dry weather, he never sees anyone out working on the field.
"Personally, I thought the planning was poorly done," Schwab said. "No one discussed this trench last year."
He has a reason to feel anxious. His team has only practiced on the field once and the joke of yelling "trench" soon emerged as a call to avoid falling in the large muddy hole.
In fact, they haven’t held a full practice on any field.
"They were pretty excited when it was all dry," Schwab said. "Now the kids are really bummed."
The city and High Peaks had planned on using the spring break vacation to get a bulk of the work accomplished, but again weather slowed them.
"That’s living in the Rockies," Oliver said.
Oliver also adds that he’s as frustrated as anyone. He wants to see things get started soon. Many concerned parents have called him about the timeline for the field, but without knowing when the field will be dry, he can’t give them any answers. Many parents and the baseball team have also offered to help, and Oliver says he will take them up on it.
"A lot of the nature of that repair is hard work with gardening tools and a rake. A volunteer work force will be an asset once we can get on there," Oliver said.
But even if everyone helps out, nobody, except Mother Nature, knows when they can start the process.
So, the reality for the baseball team is bleak. If they rally to win enough remaining region games to clinch a playoff spot, the field may still be unusable. No home field advantage in the postseason would be a disadvantage that Schwab says would make him "sorely disappointed."
"It’s not fair," Schwab said. "Our kids don’t get to play and home games, because of this mistake."
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus. The numbers in December show the Park City economy still was roaring during the first full month of the ski season.