Thursday, April 26, 2012

New KCKCC $4 million athletic facilities to help shape school's athletic department


Long the doormat for athletic facilities in the Jayhawk Conference, Kansas City Kansas Community College is about to go from last to first.

The Blue Devil baseball team has not been able to play home conference games in more than 10 years.

The soccer team has been without a field for nearly as long because the present field is not of regulation size and the track is not suitable for hosting meets. Major upgrades have been made on the softball field but it too lacks rest room facilities.

For years, the KCKCC Field House was the only basketball facility in the conference without a wood floor. That was rectified four years ago and now it’s not only the largest but one of the best facilities in the Jayhawk East.

The rest of the upgrades are about to come thanks to a $4 million construction project that will re-vamp the outdoor facilities on the north end of the campus. “We’re hoping for the completion of the track and soccer field by August but it might be October for baseball,” said Brian Bode, Vice-President of Administrative and Student Services. Here’s what’s on schedule:

BASEBALL – The entire field will be shifted to a more northeasterly direction and enlarged to alleviate two of the major problems that now exist – outfield fences that were not only too close but in disrepair and dugouts so close to home plate that players were endangered by being hit by foul balls.

”While we appreciated it when the field was laid out, it was dangerous due to the fact the dugouts were so close to home plate,” said Coach Steve Burleson of the Mears-Brett Field opened in 1982. “Batters in the on-deck circle and players in the dugout were in real jeopardy of being seriously injured. Also, because of the way the field was shoved into limited space, there was no room to put everything inside.”

After re-grading to improve drainage, the infield will be covered by artificial turf thus reducing the possibility of rainouts. The fences will be 400 feet deep in centerfield and 373 in the power allies except for down the leftfield foul line where it dips sharply to 290 feet at the home bullpen.

All baseball offices and locker room will be housed into a new building to be constructed behind the third base dugout, thus reducing the crowded conditions in the Field House.

In addition to bullpens down both foul lines, three batting cages will be constructed along with a separate concession and rest room facility that will serve the baseball and soccer fields and track. Also, trees that had to be removed to enlarge the complex will be replaced once the new baseball field is complete.

“We’re really looking forward to having a place to call our own and not having to transport all our equipment every game,” said Burleson, whose Blue Devils over the past 10 or more years have played home games at Eisenhower, Mid-America Sports Complex and most recently, Community America.

TRACK – A new 400-meter track will be constructed immediately south of the baseball field flanked by pits for the long and triple jump, high jump and pole vault with areas for the shot put, discus, javelin and hammer to be added. The track will be surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence and has been taken off limits for pedestrians.

 “We have not been able to have a home meet since at least 1992 because our facilities were just not adequate,” said head coach Al Hobson. “Hopefully, having home meets will help increase interest in the community as well as recruiting. When you don’t have home meets, people lose interest.”

SOCCER – With a new track will come room for a regulation size soccer field that will have artificial turf for all-weather use. Because of the limitations of the current track, it was never accepted as regulation size and there was no way of increasing the size.

“We’ve never got to play a home game,” said head coach Ruben Rodriguez. Over the past several years, most home games have been played at the old Wizards practice facility in Swope Park or the Johnson County Soccer Complex although occasionally the Blue Devils played at Piper or Tonganoxie high schools.

SOFTBALL – A concession stand with rest room facilities will be constructed adjacent to the softball field on the south end of the campus.

“Not being able to host baseball and soccer games and track meets also meant we were not able to provide adequate facilities for our student-athletes’ athletic interests,” said KCKCC Athletic Director Dan Pratt. “Also, having to play at other facilities was extremely costly.”  

Nemaha Construction of Omaha is the general contractor responsible for the field work while Wilcott Construction of Kansas City, Mo., will do the building projects.


TOP PHOTO 1: Heavy equipment has replaced the track and parking lot at Kansas City Kansas Community College as part of a major construction project that will include construction of a new track and baseball and soccer fields. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)

PHOTO 2 : Dugouts, bleachers, fencing and outfield trees have been removed at the 30-year-old Mears-Brett baseball field to be replaced by a new, larger and safer baseball field at KCKCC. Once the project is completed, new trees will be planted. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)