There’s a reason why the ballfield at Leif Ericson Park is known familiarly as “the dustbowl.”
The dilapidated field, located between Seventh and Eighth Avenue in the long narrow park between 65th and 66th streets, have long been in need of rehabilitation.
Now, thanks to $3.2 million in city funding allocated through the efforts of City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, that renovation – plus the installation of a comfort station in the adjacent playground -- is finally just around the corner.
“I’m excited about this project,” noted Gentile during a phone interview. “In its current condition, the dustbowl is close to being useless. It’s not even dust anymore. It’s sand.”
The design for the new ballfields, which was created in-house by the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation, includes, “A secure synthetic multi-use field consisting of new dugouts, new accessible entrances, six new handicap-accessible drinking fountains and new synthetic turf,” explained Eleanor Petty, the chairperson of Community Board 10’s Parks Committee, during the board’s May meeting.
Petty told the group gathered at the Norwegian Christian Home, 1250 67th Street, that the project – which will begin this fall and “take about nine months to complete” – also includes, “a new drainage system, bleachers, benches, fencing and plantings.”
The choice of synthetic turf had been made by the Parks Department, said Gentile, because of the heavy use the ballfield gets. “It will withstand daily, weekend and even evening use,” he stressed.
The field will not be open to the general public, said Petty, but only to permit-holders, such as the local sports leagues, who are responsible for maintenance and cleanup after games.
For this reason, Petty noted, members of the Parks Committee who saw the plans, “suggested that permit-holders be given keys to the gates and that the permit-holders be required to lock the gates after the games.”
On a side note, not only the players but the local fauna -- specifically the parrots that have built their nests on the light poles -- are being taken into consideration. “The lights will be lowered to allow the parrots to continue to nest on the light poles,” Petty told the group. “The lights will still be high enough but two feet lower than the nests.”
Overall, the field’s renovation “is really going to revitalize that area,” Gentile added. “I think my two biggest problems will be trying to negotiate with all the groups who will want to use the new field and trying to rename the dustbowl, because it won’t be a dustbowl anymore.”