A Clawson Parks & Recreation committee has rolled out a $1 million preliminary plan to revamp the aging athletic facilities at Clawson City Park.
The committee has recommended a multiphase implementation plan that includes updates to the football and baseball stadiums as well as the soccer and softball fields and tennis courts.
In fact, City Park is so outdated and in need of repairs that league coaches in the Macomb Area Conference (MAC) voted the baseball field at City Park the worst in the Tri-Counties, committee member Mike Bosnic said at a joint Board of Education/City Council meeting Tuesday.
Bosnic, who is also a Clawson school board member, has been working with the committee for more than a year to help devise a plan for the park. The 10-member committee comprises city officials and school and community sports coaches.
"It can be a a jewel for the city," Bosnic said as he presented the plan at the meeting Tuesday in the Clawson Middle School media center. "But right now, it's not realizing its full potential."
The committee has said the park's exhausted state has limited its use and has affected the city financially. Bosnic pointed out issues such as increased maintenance costs; loss of revenue streams, because the city can't lease the park in its current state or outsource it for track meets; and the loss of current or potential residents because of the park's "image of neglect."
Minor league baseball proposal jump-started changes
Last summer, concerns about the outdated baseball field rose when a professional baseball team owner proposed a $1 million renovation project at City Park if the city would allow his minor league team to play home games there. David Martin of Summit Professional Baseball said he would upgrade the field, fencing, locker rooms, food and concessions area, bleachers and more.
Bosnic and Parks & Recreation Director Mickey Alderman were on board and presented the proposal with Martin at a July 26 City Commission meeting. However, Martin eventually withdrew his proposal after dozens of residents spoke out against the idea, citing concerns about increased traffic, disturbance to a peaceful community and other issues.
Phasing in improvements
After the controversial proposal was pulled, the committee continued to meet and constructed a plan for the park, while considering input from residents. Members decided to divide the plan into phases because each facility has its own needs.
An eight-page document, "Clawson Park Planning Task Force Business Case," lays out the following plan:
The football stadium would be the first phase and priority for the committee. New artificial turf would replace the natural turf; a new track around the field would allows schools to host track meets; new visitor bleachers would be added as well as new overhead lighting, a scoreboard and security fence. The estimated cost for the field — constuction and maintenance included — is around $850,000. The track would cost $280,000-$373,000; overhead lighting $122,000-$130,000; and the visitor bleachers $50,000-$60,000.
The next phases would come as resources are available, Alderman said. The committee proposes that the baseball stadium receive a new grass infield, irrigation and drainage system, replacement of dugouts and a new scoreboard and fencing. The estimated cost for the baseball field is about $40,000, he said.
The committee also wants to remove the three concrete tennis courts at the park and put new ones by the volleyball courts. The plan calls for developing one soccer field, one Little League field and relocating the northwest soccer field.
Resident Gerald Maliszewski was at the meeting Tuesday and said he thinks a plan like this is long overdue for the city.
"I think the plan is really good," said Maliszewski, adding that it will take a lot of consisent planning and community outreach to execute the project.
Paying for the plan
While the plan may seem desirable for many residents, it won't be possible without multiple funding resources. Alderman said he doesn't anticipate any general fund money from the city or Clawson School District — especially not with both entities strapped for cash and the city asking residents for a millage increase in February, he said.
Moving forward, the committee will be responsible for researching grants, seeking sponsorships and organizing fundraisers.
Raising the funds and implementing each phase of the plan will likely be a gradual process, Alderman said.
"We’re hoping to work as hard as we can to develop that timetable," Alderman said. "We want to make a tremendous effort in this next year to do the fundraising."
The football field and track upgrades are the first priority, Alderman said. Bosnic said the school district would like to be able to host track meets at City Park, something it hasn't done in 10 years.
Bosnic said that in the long term, the revamped park will also bring in more revenue streams because there will likely be more interest in renting it for events.
Next steps, leasing
The city and school district have signed a letter of intent that allows the Parks & Recreation committee to move forward with the plan. In addition to finding the funding, there will need to be a lease agreement between the city and school district that solidifies the roles of each party with the park.
City Park is public, but the school district uses it for football games, baseball games and other activities. Bosnic said the district is paying the city approximately $8,000-$10,000 a year for park maintenance.
Alderman said the committee will need to determine who is responsible for renting out the facilities once they are revamped because both the city and school use them. The committee will also have to propose a plan for who covers the maintenance expenses at the park.
Once a lease is written, attorneys and officials for the city and school district will review it. "My hope is that the district and city can get a lease hammered out in the next two months or so," Bosnic said.
Clawson schools Superintendent Cheryl Rogers said she is on board with the plan. "It's a win-win for all of us," she said.