Despite rain delays, Luke Jensen Sports Park coming into shape

By Maecy Enger, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Luke Jensen Sports Park construction

Since breaking ground in April, the Luke Jensen Sports Park construction is on schedule to be completed in early 2012 despite the biggest problem: rain.

Since breaking ground in April, the Luke Jensen Sports Park construction is on schedule to be completed in early 2012 despite the biggest problem: rain.

Since breaking ground in April, the Luke Jensen Sports Park construction is on schedule despite the biggest problem: rain.

The soil has to be flattened for the turf. When it gets soaked, the soil must be plowed. Then it needs to air dry and be re-compacted to the original flattened state. Doing this numerous times causes delays. Elizabeth Jordan, parks capital program manager said it’s been difficult to move forward.

“Just keep thinking (the rain is) ending,” Jordan said.

The park is on track to be completed in early 2012 but the parks department is hesitant to put a more definite date on it.

The project in Hazel Dell off Northeast 78th Street has the necessary funding, estimated at $9 million. Most is from the real estate excise tax in Clark County. The rest has been donated by sports organizations. All park maintenance costs will be paid through property taxes approved by voters in 2005 and collected by Greater Clark Parks District.

Project details

The park is named after Luke Jensen, a Battle Ground boy who died of leukemia in May 2010 at age 9. He attended King’s Way Christian School, where his dad serves as a principal.

A large and small synthetic multipurpose field and two grass baseball fields will cover the largest portion of the park. The two grass baseball and softball fields will serve as Little League fields. The other small field is intended for T-ball and pee wee soccer. The largest field is going to be a multipurpose field and is complete with dugouts, batting cages and scoreboards. A multiuse two story building will be at the center of the fields. A parking lot is at the entrance and a neighborhood park will fill the back of the property.

The park is a forested area kept mostly undeveloped to protect wildlife. With the help of the neighborhood association, a small area will be cleared out for picnic tables, a few benches and walking trails.

King’s Way Christian School is adjacent the park and has agreed to provide overflow parking.

The sports park will be one of the most innovative in the county because of the synthetic turf and lights. The manufactured fibers that look like real grass can be played on in all climates. Also the fields will be lit. Scot Brantley, sports field development coordinator, said the youth leagues are very excited about that aspect.

“In the fall hours around five or six we’ll have lights out here,” Brantley said.

Area involvement

Youth leagues will use the fields the most. Salmon Creek Little League will make these new fields their home. The league planned on paying for lighting installation and scoreboards for the two Little League fields. Running short of their goal, the league was able to light one of the two fields. Todd Juenger, president of the Salmon Creek Little League, said they are looking for sponsors.

“Hopefully, the field will attract more Little League players,” Juenger said.

The league wants to use the park to start a Challenger division for disabled children.

Westside Soccer Club, Clark County Junior Baseball Association and Hazel Dell Metro League plan on using the fields, too.

Surrounding neighborhoods weren’t originally on board with the project. Now, Brantley said, after lengthy discussions they have created a neighborhood agreement to respect the surrounding community. This agreement includes not using the park after 10 p.m. and having lights that avoid spillover into adjacent properties.

“We take it seriously,” Brantley said.

What now?

The project plans haven’t changed since approved in May 2010. Workers had to take down a few more trees than anticipated, but there were no other surprises.

“Its pretty standard construction,” Jordan said.

Already the base of the multiuse building is built and the stadium lights are up, which helps give a basic layout of the park, said Jeff Mize, county public information outreach manager.

The next steps are to complete the irrigation and fencing. By Sept. 15 the natural grass is scheduled to be in place. In the middle of October, the synthetic turf is expected to be installed.

“A lot of dirt and a lot of potential,” Mize said.

Maecy Enger: maecy.enger@columbian,com 360-735-4569.