After $1.5 million, softball field still a health threat to players

Cameron Smith
September 14, 2011

In modern times, with modern field technology and rising prep sports expectations, it's not unusual for more than $1 million to be spent on installing a new playing surface, particularly if its comprised of FieldTurf. On the surface, that would make the $1.5 million Lexington (Ky.) Henry Clay High has dumped into its softball field somewhat reasonable.

Of course, that sum seems much less reasonable when it's revealed that a majority of the $1.5 million Henry Clay spent went toward upkeep and repair of the field alone … and even that hasn't kept the field from being unplayable for much of the team's season. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the problem with the field stems from ill settling and subsiding soil dating back to the field's original construction in 2002.

Henry Clay High School's flooded softball field
Henry Clay High School's flooded softball field

"Rain water just does not drain from our field," Henry Clay softball booster club president Steve Worrell told the Herald-Leader. "Last spring, our girls only got to play four or five home games because the field is almost always unplayable. It was our turn to host the district tournament, but we had to move the games to Bryan Station because Henry Clay was unfit."

Those lost home games have resulted in lost revenue for the high school's softball booster club, a problem which makes the possibility of future changes for the facility even more remote. And if there was any question that the field has failed to live up to the expectations set before it, those are quickly answered by the softball booster club's secretary.

"The booster club has invested many of its own fund-raising dollars to install a sprinkler system, a new windscreen and various other projects, to provide the girls with a facility that is somewhat comparable to the baseball field that sits directly behind it," Sherry Hamilton, secretary of the softball booster club, wrote in a July letter to school officials.

"Instead, it is an embarrassment to present this newly 'renovated' softball field, that came with a hefty price tag, to the community,'' Hamilton said.

In fact, the field issues are so egregious that the booster club has filed a lawsuit in the local circuit court to try and recoup some of the nearly $600,000 originally spent on building the field, all while the school district and booster club were investing almost $900,000 in additional funds to rebuild the stadium a second time.

Together, between the lost investment and failure to provide a safe playing surface (pooling water in the stadium's left field reportedly has led to extensive mold growth on top of the area's grass and similar pooled water is found in right field), supporters of the Henry Clay softball program said they have reached their wits end with a field that was supposed to be a dream site for their children and has instead provided more nightmares.

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