The Youth Sports Foundation of Tuolumne County is making progress in its renovation of the baseball field behind the Sonora Dome, according to foundation board member and landscaper Warren McClung.
Renovations at the ball fields at the Sonora Dome are under way. Amy Alonzo Rozak/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
The foundation this summer obtained a grant of almost $160,000 from Major League Baseball for its Dome Field project, which will provide better athletic fields for young athletes in several sports.
The project is now in its second phase, which entails installation of a new irrigation system, practice diamond, scoreboard and more.
“Right now, we’re working on establishing new grades for all of the lawn areas and turf areas just to help it drain better,” McClung said. “There are some spots where the water collects, and the grass doesn’t do well there.”
Work has also started on the field’s new irrigation system, which is why a backhoe has been present at the site.
After the grading is done, the next step will be bringing in what McClung calls “infield mix” — soil mixed with additives to help it “firm up” and become more playable. Work on new dugouts, as well as new fences along foul lines, will start this month.
“Our goal is to be prepared in September to amend the soil and plant new grass,” McClung said.
Amending soil means that fertilizer will be added, giving the grass a good growing medium. A “fallow,” or inactive, period will eventually be required so that the grass can take root.
The project’s first phase entailed “enormous amounts of earth moving” and finished in October 2010, according to Youth Sports Foundation President David Crocker.
Community donations and contributions from businesses started the second phase, with the Chicken Ranch Casino giving money to keep the field playable through softball season.
Phase III of the project will involve moving two light poles from their current locations on the field.
Supporters of the Youth Sports Foundation’s Dome Field Project have included the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, the Sonora Rotary Club and Woods Creek Little League.
Improvements made with community donations ultimately helped the foundation get the Major League Baseball money, Crocker said.
The Major League Baseball grant is part of a program called the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which promotes youth softball and baseball by providing money for fields.
It awards grants all over the world on a competitive basis, with about 400 applications received every year.
Established in 1998, the nonprofit Youth Sports Foundation first focused on creating a new Tuolumne County sports complex with an emphasis on soccer.
Crocker and other foundation members eventually realized that their best bet was renovating existing sports facilities.
“(Dome Field) is kind of a hidden little project, and we’ve been working on it for a couple years now,” McClung said. “Not a lot of people were aware of it, but we were diligently getting things done and getting to the point where we can make a big difference.”