The Niskayuna Town Board hit a grand slam Tuesday night with girls who patrol center field and guard third base at River Road Park.
The board voted to bond $350,000 for town park improvements, an amount that will include $250,000 for upgrades at River Road – home to the Niskayuna Girls Softball League.
A small contingent of players and parents appeared at the meeting, and were glad to hear woeful field conditions will soon end.
Poor drainage is the main problem on three of the fields. Dave Apkarian, the league's president, earlier this month told board members that field conditions are so bad that some Niskayuna girls have left the local program to play in other communities.
League officials estimate between 30 and 40 percent of scheduled games must be canceled. They say those are hard numbers to deal with, especially when the league's recent rapid growth means 150 girls will be part of the 2019 program.
The town has already secured some financial assistance for improvements in "Phase 1," scheduled for 2020. A $250,000 grant obtained in 2018 by Assemblyman Phillip Steck, D-Colonie, will be used to upgrade Fields 1 and 2 at a total cost of $184,250.
The remaining $65,750 of Steck funding will be used to build a new pavilion on top of the park hill overlooking the River Road fields.
The town voted to borrow money that will be used to reconfigure Field 3 and correct drainage problems; install lights on Field 1; build new restrooms and install a water source and water spigots.
The board increased its investment from $300,000 to $350,000, borrowing an additional $50,000 that will be used to improve parking and paths at River Road.
A total of $100,000 will be used to improve other town parks.
Kids are ready to suit up and run down line drives on dry turf.
"They're not great, they definitely need improvements," said center fielder Laura Mason, 14, of the fields. "They're constantly under water."
Becky Mason, Laura's mother, knows the upgrades won't happen right away.
"At least the ball is rolling," she said. "We're very excited the improvements are going to be made."
Niskayuna Softball will also pitch in. Apkarian earlier said $80,000 in fundraising – the league is hoping to reach $100,000 – will pay for new field grooming equipment, a concession stand, a mower and miscellaneous field equipment.
Other projects are planned for the future.
Lighting for Fields 2 and 3, upgrades to parking lots and park hiking trails that connect the park to nearby schools are in the works for 2021-2022. Work on little-used Field 4 is expected to begin in 2023.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.