By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - To Allen Baxter, it sounds like a lot of money to spend on ballfields.
"Four ball diamonds for $1.4 million? That's unbelievable," he said.
To township trustees and members of the West Chester Baseball Organization, the deal will be well worth it.
The Butler County township gets four new baseball fields for local teams and national tournaments at Beckett Park, along Union Centre Boulevard, plus site grading for a parking lot, soccer fields and a lake.
"It will result in a beautiful facility that will help fill up our hotels when they have tournaments ... a complex we can all be proud of," said Catherine Stoker, trustees president.
Trustees this week approved spending the $1.4 million for underground utilities, fencing and grading at the park about one mile west of Interstate 75, near the township's new central business district.
It's part of the $5 million Beckett Park plan which includes reassembling the 1881 Muhlhauser barn into a three-story seniors activity center, conference center and performance hall.
More than $1 million will be repaid over 30 years to the township by the baseball organization, which will operate the concession stand and maintain the fields.
"At some point, the township was going to have to build fields similar to this, and township employees would have had to take care of them. We're offering to do it at a high quality at no cost to the township," said Tim Stidham, group secretary-treasurer.
The fields will be seeded next spring so the baseball organization can host the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series for 13-year-olds in July, said Mike Hasselbach, West Chester Baseball Organization president.
In 2006, the organization would move all games to Beckett Park from three smaller fields squeezed into the 10-acre Basil Baseball Complex on West Chester Road, east of I-75.
The organization had been looking for a new site for three years, Stidham said.
The baseball diamonds will have grass infields, underground drainage systems to reduce rainouts, scoreboards, a concession stand with rooftop scorekeepers' box and "pro-style dugouts," Hasselbach said.
"It costs money. If you're going to build a nice place, you're going to pay for it," Hasselbach said.
Stidham stresses that the new fields will have a big economic impact all summer, not just during a weeklong tournament.
"For every local team playing, there will be another team from some other part of the area, and those people wouldn't be in our township if they weren't playing baseball that day," he said.
Baxter, who is retired, said he doesn't object to the planned baseball diamonds, soccer field or other Beckett Park improvements. He didn't like the price.
"I was shocked," Baxter said.
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