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Clearwater Phils Build New Home, Training Facility

Thu August 07, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Bonnie L. Quick

The Philadelphia Phillies and the City of Clearwater are working together on the construction of a new Clearwater community sports complex and Phillies spring training facility that is scheduled to open in 2004.

In October 2002, construction began on the park, which will seat approximately 7,000 fans and accommodate another 1,500 on sloping berm grass seating. The $30-million project is being paid for by the state of Florida, the Pinellas Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Clearwater and the Phillies, who have agreed to be responsible for any cost overruns.

The project began with the demolition of the Home Depot store that had been on the site. After the site was cleared, excavators discovered another problem stemming from landfill practices 50 years ago when environmental considerations were not so readily understood.

“As we did the excavation we found an old dump site under the Home Depot building that contained a large quantity of unknown material that we had to haul off. We moved at least 100 tons of garbage off of the project floor to a legal dump site in order to comply with current regulations,” said Jerry Spierings, senior project manager for Terra Excavating. “Apparently it was a low area and fill material was not closely governed when Home Depot went up.”

Despite garbage removal slowing the process and some delays from the Florida rainy season, the project is on schedule.

The site is located on ground with a thick underlying clay layer so there were no sinkholes in the area — good news for construction crews. Before work began, 940 steel pipe piles were laid down from 45- to 100-ft. (13.7 to 30.5 m) end bearing on base rock. Crews put concrete in excess of 6200 cu. yds. (4,740 cu m).

“The most difficult challenge in the project has been the logistics needed to lay down our materials in such a tight space,” said Mark McCaskey, Hunt Construction project manager, who is coordinating the entire operation. “So far we have moved about 19,000 cubic yards of earth using track hoes, bulldozers and loaders. We are on schedule and expect to be finished Feb. 6, 2004, in time for spring training.”

With it currently being Florida’s wet season, construction on any state project entails dewatering operations. On this project, workers installed a 24-in. (61 cm) reclaimed water line that crossed under U.S. 19, close to the aquifer. This meant boring and drilling under the six-lane highway, which also is being widened, at approximately 25 ft. (7.6 m) below the surface.

In order to complete this process, John Deere 300 and 400 backhoes were used to move 50,000 to 60,000 tons (45,359 to 54,431 t) of dirt in order to install a large storm pipe, which had to be rerouted from one holding pond to another.

Full Swing for 2004

Spring Training

February 2004 will be the grand opening of the new Jack Russell facility, which John Timberlake, director of Florida operations for the Phillies, calls “one of the most fan-friendly spring training ball parks in the world. It will be a one-of-a-kind spring training facility, not only for the players but for the fans, who will be able to see what is going on in the game even as they walk around in the park for refreshments,” said Timberlake. “There is no other place that is comparable. It is the next generation training facility.”

The new design allows fans total access to the ball game no matter where they are in the facility. Fans will enter through a turnstile that is 16 ft. above the playing field. Along that concourse will be an open area that will house concessions, a gift shop, a kids playground, tiered picnic tables, a grassy area and a Florida-style tiki bar.

Fans will be able to shop at a 200-sq.-ft. retail store and relax on a covered party deck, or walk around to see the game from different vantage points along a bridge that will connect the park from one end to the other. And if that is not enough, a 15 by 21-ft. video board will broadcast the live action.

Six corporate suites and 250 club level seats will give the serious fan air-conditioned comfort as they watch their favorite players.

The players also will benefit from the new amenities: weight rooms, hydrotherapy and team lockers. One of the biggest advantages to the new location is its proximity to the old Carpenter Complex, where players have been practicing for more than 50 years. The old stadium was 4.5 mi. away from the practice field.

The Phillies have been in Clearwater for 58 years. Over the past six decades, countless hall of famers have played spring training games in Clearwater, including Stan Musial, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Brooks Robinson, Yogi Berra and Roberto Clemente.

More than 90,000 cars pass by the field on a daily basis, making the stadium highly visible in the community. A recreation trail, bicycle paths and public open spaces will be integrated into the design.

Approximately 200 officials from the city of Clearwater, state of Florida, Pinellas Convention and Visitors Bureau and members of the Clearwater Phillies Organization gathered at the new Jack Russell Stadium for a “topping out” ceremony as the last beam was put in place for the new complex. Dignitaries signed the beam at the ceremony that marked approximately half-way mark through the multimillion dollar construction project.

“This new ballpark will surely become a community landmark and allow the Phillies and the city of Clearwater to extend their long relationship at least another 20 years,” said Timberlake.

For more information visit www.clearwaterphillies.com.