Johnston Field getting a facelift

Sean C. Morgan

The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam are in the midst of improving Roy Johnston Park, the home of Sweet Home’s summer youth baseball and softball programs.

The project began about a year ago, said Sweet Home Branch Director Shari Smith.

“Currently, the complex is in poor repair, and our fields pose many problems and dangers throughout the baseball season,” she said. “We envision a park that our community and, most importantly, our kids can be proud of, a facility that would allow our kids to play more home games and instill a sense of pride and ownership, a place where families can come and watch their kids’ ball games knowing that Roy Johnston Park is an integral part and gem of their community.”

The ball park is located on the southern portion of the Hawthorne Elementary School site, 3205 Long St.

In the past year, the Boys and Girls Club has worked on obtaining water rights for irrigating the fields, organizing work parties for cleanup and improvements, writing grant applications and running fund-raising events for renovations.

New wells have been drilled as a donation by Jones Well Drilling, Smith said. The backstops on each field have been taken down.

Club officials hope to be able to host baseball tournaments and potentially even the state and regional tournaments, Smith said. They also hope to reduce the amount of travel to play ball and minimize that impact on families.

Among the improvements will be renovation of all five existing fields. The project will replace them with four new fields. Grass will be removed. The fields will be leveled and replanted along with use of a top field conditioner by Oct. 15.

That will reduce the number of rainouts, Smith said. There are low spots on all the fields, which pool water. The new fields will ensure the fields have no standing water.

The work on the fields means the oak tree in the northeastern part of the complex will need to come down to provide enough space, Smith said. Right now, only one baseball field is regulation size. After this project, the complex will boast three regulation-sized baseball fields and a regulation-sized softball field.

The wood from the oak will be used by Dustin Nichol’s high school construction trades class, Smith said.

The concessions stand must be rebuilt, Smith said. Existing plumbing and electrical systems must be replaced, and a new roof and paint are needed. New wood storage shelves will be built into the concession stand. The project is a requirement to host state tournaments.

New fencing will prevent the public from using the fields for non-athletic purposes, Smith said. Currently, the fields are posted to discourage dogs, bikes and other activities on the field.

One of the final improvements will be covering the existing dugouts, Smith said. All 10 dugouts will have tin roofs. Privacy screens will be used for the sides and back of each dugout to protect against wind and rain early in the season and sun and heat later in the season.

“If we are able to execute all of these improvements, we should be able to host around six to eight baseball tournaments in Sweet Home,” Smith said. “The majority of these tournaments have at least eight teams that will be participating while some could have up to 12 teams involved. Our goal is to provide a quality baseball complex for the youth of Sweet Home, somewhere that they will be proud to take the field and play ball.”

The project will cost about $30,000. The Boys and Girls Club has about $10,000 so far.

For more information, to volunteer or to donate, contact the Boys and Girls Club of Sweet Home at 367-6421.