Almanac

News - November 30, 2011

Portola Valley: Cost doubles for renovating Ford Field

by Dave Boyce

It may be time to lay aside such bland euphemisms as "project" and "plan" and give the proper name to efforts to obtain state funding to renovate Portola Valley's Ford (baseball) Field: quest.

Originally funded at $255,000 in 2008, with $232,000 of that coming from state grants, the project is now estimated to cost between $450,000 and $500,000. The state grants would now cover about half the project at the corner of Alpine Road and Westridge Drive, with the rest left to fundraising by the Little League, the only organized user of the field, Town Manager Angela Howard said.

It's taken so long because the state froze the grants in December 2008, restored them in September 2010, reassured recipients of their availability some months later, and then issued a retraction of a sort. Now the reassurance is back on, with an expiration set for June 30, 2015.

Based on three community workshops, the original plans called for changes that included shade trees along the first- and third-base lines and new "social space," including picnic tables, bleachers and a grassy knoll behind left field.

The batting cage and pitcher warm-up area would be smaller, and there would be permanent bathrooms and a snack shack. The field would be rotated a few degrees to the east to improve the bank of Los Trancos Creek.

The grants would come as reimbursement; the town must stick its neck out and begin building on its own.

"A year ago, (the money) was gone. Will it be gone in another six months?" Councilman Steve Toben wondered at the Nov. 9 council meeting.

"We want to be one of the first in line to get reimbursed," Ms. Howard said.

Mr. Toben added that while he said he was ready to ask the Little League to proceed with fundraising, he wanted to avoid a scenario of having to ask them to double their goal, or having to tap the town's general fund to cover gaps.

If the Little League can raise the money — and they probably can, Ms. Howard told the council — the council would go with a deadline of Dec. 31, 2012, for delivery of the funds, which gives time for analysis and staging so as to start the project after July 2012.

"And to be clear," Mr. Toben added, "the idea is not for Little League itself to contribute all the funds, but for Little League to be the locus of a community-wide outreach and fundraising effort."

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