Board of education to take a swing at baseball field project

Levy Yun/Staff
The Derby field may be transformed into a baseball field.

When Josh Daniels first tried out for the baseball team as a freshman at Berkeley High School, the varsity team coach told him that the team would have a baseball field to play on by his senior year.

That was in 1995. Daniels, who graduated from the high school in 1999, is now a director on the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education and will have the opportunity to vote Wednesday on the next step in the creation of the Derby field, which — still not created over 15 years later — will be a multi-use facility owned and operated by the district.

At its meeting this week, the school board will consider what Daniels said would be the “final major step” in decision-making to convert the field — located at Derby Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way — from a grass field to a baseball field.

Currently, the high school’s baseball team practices at San Pablo Park in southwest Berkeley.

The board approved the field project in June 2010. It will be created through funds received from Measure I, a $210 million bond passed in November to complete seismic retrofits and construction projects.

Estimated construction costs are a little over $2.4 million though the total project will cost around $3.75 million, according to the district’s Facilities Director Lew Jones.

These figures are subject to change after Wednesday’s board meeting, at which the board will discuss community members’ recommendations that are not currently included in the district’s plans or cost estimate. These recommendations include the installation of an outfield fence, a sewer connection, a monument sign and pulling wire for batting machines or scoreboards.

“Originally, this field was intended to be completed by sometime between 2014 and 2015. In June, the board directed staff to complete it by February of 2013 — that accelerated the pace and the cost,” Daniels said. “The fact that this had been going on for over 10 years was a major reason why a lot of the community supported the bond.”

According to Jones, Wednesday will be the first time the board will discuss and have the chance to approve the $86,350 cost increase caused by the accelerated pace of development.

“This is a very important step because we’re approving the final plan for the field — it will anchor what we do for the next few months,” Daniels said.