NORTH BEND – The girls’ softball fields on Oak Street are getting upgraded.
The North Bend School District has had plans to make improvements to the facilities for years, but delayed as it gathered funds. The push to make the upgrades now is coming from the Oregon Department of Education as a result of a Title XI audit done last March.
This is an issue many schools are being faced with throughout the state. According to the North Bend High School athletic director, Mike Forrester, baseball and softball facilities have a bigger discrepancy than seen in other sports.
“In basketball, we play the same court, volleyball is in the same gym,” he said. “At that point, we already had a plan in place for improvements, but when ODE came down and performed their audit it did bring up additional questions we hadn’t considered.”
One of those questions turned out to be whether the softball fields on Oak Street needed the improvements or if the district needed to find a spot on the lower field at the North Bend High School.
“We have since found out that we can upgrade the fields at Oak Street, which is the best place,” Forrester said. “There are two softball fields up there already and can be a really nice complex when all is said and done. We just haven’t started up there because until we knew where this project was going to take place, we didn’t want to put $180,000 of work to be told is has to be done somewhere else.”
Now that the district knows where the improvements can be made, it is going out to bid for contractors this week.
Though the Title XI audit was done in March, the district says it still hasn’t seen the final report from ODE. The ODE auditor returned in August to touch base with the district and allegedly promised to have the report to them in 30 days, but Forrester says they still haven’t seen it.
“But once we found out we can do this at Oak Street, we’ve worked with HGE and got approval from the city and a conditional use permit,” Forrester said. “We’ve been plugging away with stuff like that and, at this point, know we’re good to start with the city.”
One of the biggest upgrades being made to the fields is a restroom in the batting cages. Until this is done, Forrester said the female players had no place to change or use the bathroom when they came to play.
“It’s tough for kids to go up there without a place to go to the bathroom,” he said.
Not only that, but the fields are to be landscaped with local volunteers.
“There’s no building involved with some of the plantings and landscape, just a little elbow grease,” Forrester said.
He pointed out that at the donated Clyde Allen baseball field, teams do a lot to keep it looking nice and this “will be a chance for softball players to put stuff in.”
There are also catch basins that drain the fields but are down in a hole. These will be raised to keep water out of the facility.
The district plans on having the batting cage upgrades, complete with restrooms, finished before softball season begins on Feb. 25.
“It’ll be a beautiful facility when it’s all said and done,” Forrester said.