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Medford sports park expansion awaits vote

A$6 million expansion of U.S. Cellular Community Park to add three new ballfields could get under way by April if the Medford City Council on Thursday awards a contract to Batzer Construction Co. of Medford.

Batzer has been recommended by the Medford Parks and Recreation Department as the general contractor to take on almost $3.3 million of the project.

Other contractors that bid on the project included Adroit Construction Co. of Ashland and Ausland Group of Medford.

The City Council previously approved raising car rental fees to pay for expansion of the park, located off Highway 99 at the south end of Medford along Bear Creek.

In addition to the work being done by Batzer, the city will undertake separate agreements for the purchase of the artificial turf, restrooms and other features to complete the project.

The park, which Medford parks officials say has generated an estimated $46.4 million for the local economy since it opened in 2008, now has 12 fields.

"When we see the economic report and the number of people brought in for tournaments, the park has paid for itself many times over," said Rich Hansen, chairman of the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission.

Hansen said local hotels and restaurants have benefited from events at the park.

He said the complex also has other activities not related to the ballfields, including the Coyote Trails Nature Center, fundraisers and other events.

In 2013, the 132-acre park had a 13-percent increase in the number of teams visiting the area compared to the previous record year in 2010.

Russ Batzer, president of Batzer Construction, said a good portion of the contract will be spent on excavation and extensive drainage systems to keep the fields dry.

Batzer said his company has worked on several ballfields before, including Harry and David Field and a sports park for the University of Oregon.

If Batzer gets the contract, it will work closely with the city and Hardey Engineering and Associates of Medford to finalize the plans and design of the fields.

If the plans can be agreed upon soon, Batzer said, his crews should be able to begin construction at the beginning of April and be finished by mid-September.

Batzer said the dog park at U.S. Cellular would be roughly half the size of the one at Bear Creek Park.

The city will purchase the restroom building, and Batzer will install it, he said.

Since the park opened in May 2008, it has hosted 22,100 games and more than 969,000 visitors, according to an economic analysis from the Parks and Recreation Department. Visiting teams have spent an estimated $25.1 million.

In 2013, 1,325 teams competed on the artificial grass fields, including 672 from outside the Rogue Valley, up from 589 in 2012.

The park's initial construction budget was $25 million.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.