City Council last week approved a contract proposal from Abonmarche Consultants of Benton Harbor for professional design, construction administration and construction closeout services in the amount of $81,300 for the Sluka Field restrooms/concessions/storage building project, which will involve design and construction of a new restroom/concessions/storage facility and site improvements.
City Council recently approved a $300,000 Michigan Department of National Resources Trust Fund grant to help fund improvements to the Sluka Field facilities.
“We’re expecting this project to be in the $650,000 to $700,000 range,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.
The grant will cover less than half of the cost to improve the building, pathways, recycling bins and utility upgrades. Construction costs alone are expected to exceed $500,000, according to the city’s preliminary project budget.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on the meat and potatoes,” McGinnis said. “It will be a restroom for a park, storage for the Tri-Cities Kids League, and maybe a small concession window to support the use we usually see there, which is baseball use all summer long.”
A year ago, City Council entered into an agreement with the Grand River Loggers, a collegiate summer league baseball team in West Michigan. The Loggers hoped to use Sluka Field as their home stadium, and many upgrades were proposed. That agreement was crafted to ensure the Loggers had “reasonable control over the field” when they played games there, while others could use the facilities fully when the team was on the road or outside of its regular season.
Due to a change in ownership, the Loggers did not field a team this year. Loggers representative Ben Davis said the team is now in the process of being taken over by local owners, and there is an “80 percent chance” that the team will be playing next season. They are considering invitations to several leagues, he added.
“We’ve sort of reoriented ourselves to make this a project that’s really directed at park users, and Tri-Cities Kids League and NORA, who are the historic primary users,” McGinnis said. “The summer baseball league users — while we may invite their input and talk to them during this — at this point they’re not at the table with any resources to contribute to the project as we’d originally thought.”
McGinnis noted that the next steps for the process include bringing together the various park users and the architect to work on preliminary design guidance to ensure the architect “gets off on the right foot.” These preliminary discussions will include whether or not the restroom facility is open year-round and how the new Sluka Field facilities could be built with future expansion in mind.
Councilman Mike Fritz said he looks forward to the improved facilities.
“I think it’s quite an asset compared to what we have today,” he said. “For as much use as this park gets, porta-johns are not the way to go.”