Baseball field gets OK on upgrade plan

KENNEWICK -- A local foundation's efforts to upgrade a baseball field finally are back on track after more than a year of negotiations.

The Kennewick School Board unanimously agreed to the field upgrades, including a new grandstand, at the Kennewick American Youth Baseball complex on South Olympia Street.

The proposal approved this week considered many of the changes requested by neighbors earlier this year.

The Cooper Larson Foundation now can apply for the necessary city building permits, said Keith Dupuis, one of the group's leaders.

The complex is on the grounds of Canyon View Elementary School.

The baseball league has a use agreement with the school for the land, but the district still has to sign off on construction at the complex, said school Superintendent Dave Bond.

The board didn't accept original plans for new light towers, loudspeakers and fencing around one of four fields next to the school.

The foundation paying for the upgrades named the planned field -- and itself -- after Cooper Larson, a 4-year-old Kennewick boy who died of cancer in 2008.

But the good cause ran into opposition.

The complex's neighbors filled a February school board meeting to object to improvements.

The school board shelved the proposal, asking the foundation and residents to try to work out a compromise.

Original plans had called for field No. 4, which is outside of the league complex and farthest from Olympia Street, to be turned into the league's premier field.

That field is barely developed. Updating it would have meant putting in lights, speakers and bleachers where there is none.

The proposal approved this week was modest in comparison. Now, field No. 2 is targeted for upgrades.

This field is inside the complex and already has lights and sound, said school district spokeswoman Lorraine Cooper.

The upgrades to field No. 2 include new concrete bleachers behind home plate, deeper dugouts, one additional batting cage, a rebuilt scorer's box and a few other minor changes, documents show.

No new lights or speakers will be added.

With the school board's approval in hand, the foundation can now sit down with contractors, engineers and city officials for the permitting process, Dupuis said.

He is a friend of the Larson family.

"We're kind of ecstatic," Dupuis said about hearing of the school board's decision. "We're ready to continue our fundraising push."

The foundation has raised about $42,000 for the new field. The upgrades will cost close to $100,000, he said.

They had hoped to have the new field ready for next season, which starts in mid-March, but that might be too tight a schedule now, he said.

Although the foundation would have liked to upgrade field No. 4, its members look forward to putting up signs bearing Cooper Larson's name outside of field No. 2.

"He was a bat boy on this very field," Dupuis said.

* Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com