West Field takes shape: New venue for MHS softball nears readiness in hopes for a season


A look at the new-and-improved West Field, in the southwest corner of the Monticello Athletic Complex. This will be the new home of the Monticello High School softball team. (Photos by Pete Temple)

The tiered seating at West Field will eventually have stadium-style seats on the first three levels. The fourth level will allow for bag seating in front of the railing, and the fourth level directly behind home plate is for those who prefer to stand.

The new Shannon field gives the MYBSA a second youth diamond behind Shannon School.
By: 
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Work continues on the West Field at the Monticello Athletic Complex, new home of the Monticello High School softball team, in the hope that there will be a high school season this summer.

     “My guess is that we will absolutely be ready if we have a softball season this year, but we will have things that still have to be done,” Superintendent Brian Jaeger said.

     The field, in the southwest corner of the complex, kitty corner behind the varsity baseball field, replaces the two fields on the east side of the high school building that had to be torn up as part of construction on the new middle school.

     The East and Prep fields remain intact, and a new diamond has been constructed behind Shannon School to replace the loss of West Field for the Monticello Youth Baseball and Softball Association (MYBSA).

     Ideas for the reconstructed West Field were the result of a committee that toured other facilities and then discussed ideas.

     “(Activities Director) Tim Lambert got a group together, and we toured several different facilities,” Jaeger said. Among them, he added, were the University of Iowa, Cornell College, and high school diamonds in Solon, Mount Vernon and at Linn-Mar.

     “We came up with the option we have now, which is the tiered seating option,” he added.

     Tiers of concrete have been constructed behind the backstop, and more than 150 stadium-style seats will be installed on those tiers. Behind the top tier on the left and right sides will be flat areas for people who prefer to watch the games from bag chairs. In the middle at the top will be a standing-room area.

     “We didn’t want to lose that element, because people really liked it,” Jaeger said.

     Bleacher areas will be available as well.

     The stadium seating won’t be available until mid-summer, as the company that builds them was set back by the COVID-19 pandemic.

     “We will have to use bag seating in the bleachers for a while,” Jaeger said.

     West Field was also made larger than it was as a youth sports venue.

     “Home plate had to move away from the backstop a little bit to meet high school standards,” Jaeger said.

     New dugouts were constructed, and the home dugout, on the first base side, sits next to a storage facility with a clubhouse and press box building atop it, similar to the structure at the varsity baseball field.

     There is much work yet to be done.

     The district salvaged what it could from the former field. The lockers from the softball clubhouse were moved into the new one. Lime was scraped off the old field and used as part of the lime at the new site as well, along with other materials and the sound system.

     “We still have a few things to do before it would be game-ready,” Jaeger said. “We have an electrician coming in to hook up our lights, we’re going to have a watering system in place, and we have a few more things to do with the playing surface.”

     Future plans call for an additional parking lot beyond the left field fence, putting up batting cages, and building a canopy above the standing area behind home plate.

     “As the plans keep unfolding, we will check all the boxes of things that have to be done out there,” Jaeger said. “I give a lot of kudos to Dennis Dirks. He’s been juggling a lot of balls in the air with this thing. Dennis has been instrumental with the (middle school) building project as well.”

     All of it is in the hope that there will be a softball and baseball season for the high school this summer. Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to announce a decision on that by June 1.

     “I’m always an optimist, so I’m very hopeful, but I also have to look very realistically,” Jaeger said. “Let’s call it a 50-50 chance right now. All the athletic directors from our conference have been working together to come up with schedule Option A, Option B, Option C.”

     If there is a season, Jaeger said, “there will be a couple of weeks of practice, and I think they’re only going to play a limited number of games.”

New Shannon diamond

     While work at West Field was going on, work was also being done behind Shannon School to build an additional youth diamond. The new one begins beyond the left field fence of the current Shannon diamond, and faces southeast from there.

     The district got a financial boost when Bud Johnson agreed to work on installing the infield lime at the new Shannon field, to save the district the expense of hiring a separate contractor.

     “Bud was really a big part of laying out the field,” Jaeger said. “Once the field was laid out, we brought a fencing crew in, pulled out the dirt and put in lime, laid the concrete, put in the dugouts, and laid the pad for the bleachers.”

     The dugouts from the former varsity and JV softball fields were moved to the Shannon complex. Future plans call for restrooms to be constructed west of the concession stand, and install a sidewalk from the parking lot to the new field.

     “In the long run, I think the idea to have games over there for the MYBSA is a fantastic option when you have two working fields that have really nice facilities and a concession stand,” Jaeger said.

     “It’s exciting to see it all come together.”

    

 

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