Officials cut ribbon on new HS ball diamond

Jun. 4—School officials finally cut the ribbon on the Oskaloosa High School's new state-of-the-art synthetic turf baseball diamond Monday night, ahead of a double-header with Pella Christian.

Two previous attempts at the ceremony had been rained out.

"This facility is a game-changer," Oskaloosa High School Activities Director Ryan Parker told the crowd.

The diamond replaces the old natural turf field, which had poor drainage and was prone to flooding.

"If we got a half-inch of rain, the half-inch of rain might actually cost us tomorrow as well because it just didn't drain," Parker said. "It just kind of sat there."

The tiling under the new turf will let water drain and alleviate that problem, Parker said.

Parker explained that officials looked into both artificial and natural turf for the new diamond. While artificial turf costs more upfront, it saves money and man-hours in its upkeep. Natural turf fields require fertiliziation, weed control, mowing and field repairs.

"It all adds up," Parker said.

Construction started as soon as the 2023 baseball season ended in August, Parker said. Most of the work was done before Christmas, giving the rubber and crushed gravel beneath the turf time to settle.

Besides being a more useable field for the baseball team, Parker stated that the diamond will benefit a host of high school activities. Physical education classes and the middle school have used it in the spring. Soccer teams have practiced there. The marching band and football teams can use the field for practice when the practice field is unusable.

"It will allow us to use it not only as a baseball field, but a multi-purpose facility," Parker said.

The renovations include more than 115,000 square feet of synthetic turf, new backstops, bullpens, fencing, automated sports broadcasting technology and an upgraded LED lighting system. The school district partnered with Musco Sports Lighting and Garden & Associates in Oskaloosa, as well as Iowa Sports Turf in Des Moines and others for the project.

Tom Morrison, a sales manager at Musco and an Oskaloosa booster, said Musco leveraged its experience in sports field design to help.

"Musco stepped up and really made sure the project could get done, and get done in a reasonable budget for the school," Morrison said.

"I do know that going this route, with the help from Musco, it really came down to we installed that facility at cost," Parker said.

The field cost $1.25 million, from the state's SAVE fund.

The new diamond is a hit with the players.

"It's pretty nice," said Spencer Vaughan, an 18-year-old senior and pitcher on the team. "It's definitely nice to use. Helps us stay in the game."

Garret Roethler, also 18 and a senior on the team, agreed. "Pretty convenient. But it's hot. It's much hotter than you might think."

Synthetic turf radiates heat on sunny days.

Roethler said the synthetic turf takes out the strange and unpredictable hops a ball might make on a dirt field with damage, allowing them to play "true baseball."

"You play in the dirt, you're going to get some bad balls," he said.

Jeff Wilford is a staff writer for the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at