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FNC baseball fields to receive synthetic turf infields

Mother nature wreaks havoc in Mississippi every year during the spring, causing outdoor events to be postponed or canceled constantly.

FNC Park is trying to put a stop to that.
Four baseball fields are seeing their infields completely renovated for the upcoming season by having their grass dug up and replaced with a new drainage system and turf fields.

The fields will resemble Swazye Field at Oxford-University Stadium at Ole Miss with chalk lines sewn into the turf. There will also be a portable pitching mound that will be used in order to adjust the desired distance for each level of teams that will use the fields.

The outfields will remain the same as only the infields are receiving the makeover. Eight to 10 inches will be dug out of the infield then a drainage system involving a series of pipes will be laid down followed by a filter fabric and different sized stones. After those steps have been completed, the synthetic turf will be placed on top.

“They say it can handle biblical amounts of rain, like a hundred inches an hour,” FNC Park Director Brad Freeman said. “It’s something that would never happen. If we got 100 inches an hour, we’d be in trouble. What it is ultimately going to allow us to do is going to give our local teams more opportunity to practice and play.”

The end game is to be able to withstand the constant spring afternoon storms that pop up and have caused games to be canceled in the past. With the new turf installed, once a storm has passed, the water will be able to drain and games can resume or be able to be played after a minimal delay instead of complete cancellations.

Footing the bill
The whole installation process for all four fields costs roughly $370,000. The Board of Alderman for the city of Oxford approved the budget in a meeting Tuesday night, giving Freeman the green light to begin the process as soon as possible and move equipment into place as early as Wednesday. Some of the cost has already been covered with $170,000 paid for in sponsorships from Papa Johns, Lance Reed and Chick-Fil-A in Oxford, Oxford-University Bank and The Graduate hotel. Each of the four businesses will have one of the fields named after them much like the soccer fields.
The rest of the money is coming from the 2 percent tourism tax, also known as the food and beverage tax.

“(Weather) was the biggest factor just because of the versatility it allows,” Freeman said. “Another factor was the durability of the system. You can play baseball on it, you can play softball on it is as well. It’s just something that requires very little maintenance. I’m not saying it doesn’t require any, but compared to the maintenance we were doing on our infields, it is just going to be night and day.”

Freeman said he would like to have the installation process completed in time for the park’s first baseball tournament, which will be held March 18-20 give or take a few days due to weather delays.