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Complaints Mount as Work Continues at Baseball Field

April 1, 2009 — With tensions rising over delays in repairing Alvin McBean Ballpark, community members are looking for answers, and Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire Williams provided some on Wednesday.
On a sunny day last week, Housing, Parks and Recreation workers were mowing the outfield at McBean and fixing the infield ground, but for community activist Clarence Payne, the work came months too late. Payne noted the absence of a light in center field and big pile of dirt where the pitching mound was supposed to be. Repairs at McBean were supposed to be finished last November, he said.
"In the meantime, the kids have been going to Frenchtown to play," Payne said. "We have six other teams here in the east that have to travel a very long distance, and many of the parents don't have vehicles. In fact, everyone is trying to go the extra mile, but many of the teams have missed practices, several practices, and you really can't have a good team if you can't practice."
While looking out for the community, Payne also has a personal attachment to the field.
"Thousands of men have played baseball on this field," he said. "We would drive from Bovoni to Nadir, catch rides just to play on this field. But over the years, it looked like it has never been up-kept."
About two weeks ago, Payne sent a mass email to various community members that showed pictures of the field's condition. He asked them for support in contacting the government about moving the work along. One of the contacts was Vaughn Walwin, vice president of the McBean East Little League, who said there were kids actually not playing this year because they don't have a field to play on.
Walwin pointed out spots on the Smith Bay field — which the East Little League uses sometimes for practice and games — that parents have had to fix themselves, along with a spot behind center field that looks like a sewer break.
In an interview with the Source Wednesday, Williams offered a different perspective. Repairs at McBean were part of a larger ongoing effort to fix up the territory's parks and recreational facilities, he said — a project that Housing, Parks assessed would total $5 million. The 27th Legislature gave the department $3 million — $1.5 million for each district — to begin the work. Upgrades are already underway, he said, on about 20 facilities on St. Croix, 10 on St. Thomas and two or three projects on St. John.
"In terms of McBean, we originally didn't have all the funding we needed in place," Williams said. "When we first went in there, we were only going to do certain things. But when we started the work, we said, 'Let's do what we can do bring it up to par and really develop it.' Then we got the extra money, and the timetable we originally set got expanded. It is an inconvenience, yes, but in the long run, I think it will turn out to be a good facility for the community, particularly those in Anna's Retreat."
Walking around McBean, it's clear progress has been made: The bathrooms are new, the basketball courts have been resurfaced and painted, the scoreboard has been replaced and new bleachers with handicap access have been installed.
On St. Thomas, the same set of about 10 workers repairing McBean Ballpark maintain every other ballpark on the island, and get up early in the morning to balance out preparing each field for the day's baseball games while keeping the repairs going. The department can't afford to hire new staff right now, Williams said.
Also holding up work were delays in the arrival of a new machine used to drag the fields and supplies such as the eight-foot fencing the department will install at McBean. But a tentative date of April 18 has been set for the reopening of the field, Williams said.
"Whatever you do, wherever there's going to be improvement, it times time, it takes money and it takes patience," he said. "In the long run — yes there's going to be some pain, there's going to be some inconvenience. But in the long run, you're going to be happy with what you've got because it's going to be something you'll be able to enjoy for a number of years."
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April 1, 2009 -- With tensions rising over delays in repairing Alvin McBean Ballpark, community members are looking for answers, and Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire Williams provided some on Wednesday.
On a sunny day last week, Housing, Parks and Recreation workers were mowing the outfield at McBean and fixing the infield ground, but for community activist Clarence Payne, the work came months too late. Payne noted the absence of a light in center field and big pile of dirt where the pitching mound was supposed to be. Repairs at McBean were supposed to be finished last November, he said.
"In the meantime, the kids have been going to Frenchtown to play," Payne said. "We have six other teams here in the east that have to travel a very long distance, and many of the parents don't have vehicles. In fact, everyone is trying to go the extra mile, but many of the teams have missed practices, several practices, and you really can't have a good team if you can't practice."
While looking out for the community, Payne also has a personal attachment to the field.
"Thousands of men have played baseball on this field," he said. "We would drive from Bovoni to Nadir, catch rides just to play on this field. But over the years, it looked like it has never been up-kept."
About two weeks ago, Payne sent a mass email to various community members that showed pictures of the field's condition. He asked them for support in contacting the government about moving the work along. One of the contacts was Vaughn Walwin, vice president of the McBean East Little League, who said there were kids actually not playing this year because they don't have a field to play on.
Walwin pointed out spots on the Smith Bay field -- which the East Little League uses sometimes for practice and games -- that parents have had to fix themselves, along with a spot behind center field that looks like a sewer break.
In an interview with the Source Wednesday, Williams offered a different perspective. Repairs at McBean were part of a larger ongoing effort to fix up the territory's parks and recreational facilities, he said -- a project that Housing, Parks assessed would total $5 million. The 27th Legislature gave the department $3 million -- $1.5 million for each district -- to begin the work. Upgrades are already underway, he said, on about 20 facilities on St. Croix, 10 on St. Thomas and two or three projects on St. John.
"In terms of McBean, we originally didn't have all the funding we needed in place," Williams said. "When we first went in there, we were only going to do certain things. But when we started the work, we said, 'Let's do what we can do bring it up to par and really develop it.' Then we got the extra money, and the timetable we originally set got expanded. It is an inconvenience, yes, but in the long run, I think it will turn out to be a good facility for the community, particularly those in Anna's Retreat."
Walking around McBean, it's clear progress has been made: The bathrooms are new, the basketball courts have been resurfaced and painted, the scoreboard has been replaced and new bleachers with handicap access have been installed.
On St. Thomas, the same set of about 10 workers repairing McBean Ballpark maintain every other ballpark on the island, and get up early in the morning to balance out preparing each field for the day's baseball games while keeping the repairs going. The department can't afford to hire new staff right now, Williams said.
Also holding up work were delays in the arrival of a new machine used to drag the fields and supplies such as the eight-foot fencing the department will install at McBean. But a tentative date of April 18 has been set for the reopening of the field, Williams said.
"Whatever you do, wherever there's going to be improvement, it times time, it takes money and it takes patience," he said. "In the long run -- yes there's going to be some pain, there's going to be some inconvenience. But in the long run, you're going to be happy with what you've got because it's going to be something you'll be able to enjoy for a number of years."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.