Saltillo eyeing improvements at sportsplex and Wesson Park

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May 18—SALTILLO — Thanks to bids coming in lower than anticipated, the city of Saltillo should be able to install turf at three baseball fields at the W.K. Webb Sportsplex and make much needed improvements to the bathrooms across town at Wesson Park.

The city set aside $1.2 million to install turf on the fields. The bid by Tupelo-based Stewart Environmental Construction came in low enough that the city was able to include alternate bids to add walk paths and concrete pads behind the backstops.

Altogether, the bids — including the two alternates — came in about $67,000 under budget.

Parks & Recreation director Alex Wilcox and Mayor Copey Grantham said the left over money could be used for concession stand improvements at the sportsplex as well as new restrooms at Wesson Park.

The bulk of the money will go to install turf, new backstops and dugouts on three fields, plus a backstop and dugouts at a fourth field that will remain natural grass. The new backstops will be closer to the plate. An alternate bid will concrete the new spaces between the existing bleachers and the backstops. Wilcox said that will provide space for parents to set up lawn chairs without it turning muddy when it rains.

Since the Board of Aldermen accepted the bid Tuesday night, Wilcox hopes the project can remain on schedule. Construction should begin in early June and be completed by the end of August, just in time for the fall ball seasons to begin.

While expensive, officials see the turf as a sound investment. Tournament officials like the turf because less work is required to get the field ready between games. And in the event of rain, the fields can be ready for play quicker than dirt and grass fields — usually within an hour of the rain stopping. In addition to helping draw tournaments, the city would save the money now spent on mowing, chemicals and marking the fields.

Wilcox hopes to reserve about $15,000 of the savings for upgrades to the concession stand at the sportsplex. Grantham said the remainder could be pooled with other money to provide $70,000 or more to be used for bathroom and concession stand upgrades at Wesson Park on the west side of town.

During discussions at the May 3 board meeting, aldermen seemed to agree it would be better to tear down the existing 40-year-old bathrooms at Wesson Park and start over in a more central location.

"If we are going to do this, why not design it to be both a concession stand and restrooms," said alderman Craig Sanders.

Since the project will cost more than $50,000, the city will have to put it out for bids.