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PFD board tours remodeled Fairgrounds

Public Facility District (PFD) board members were celebratory as they toured the nearly finished playing fields last week at the Fairgrounds.

Kitsap County Parks planner, Dennis Oost, led the tour. He designed the remodel of the southern half of the county facility. It includes re-engineered and newly installed playing fields, dug-outs, lighting, fencing, landscaping, walkways, parking lots, irrigation, flood control and more.

The so-called “gallery” was the star of the show.

“The gallery has about four or five feet of water in it now, from recent rains,” Oost said as board members peered down a foot-wide pipe buried vertically in the ground. The standing water was about six feet down. “We’ll be irrigating (the ball fields) from this area.... The other end will provide drainage for flood control.”

The county has struggled for years to keep the Fairgrounds fields dry year-round. It’s hoped the gallery — a football-field-sized underground reservoir — will draw water off fields when it rains, and irrigate fields when it’s hot and dry in the summer.

“It works!” boardmember Rick Smith said, jokingly adding, “some of us were holding our breath.”

Flood control involves ditches, swales, rock falls, drains and carefully re-graded land — all to catch as much water as possible. Drainage will be improved for three existing playing fields (baseball or soccer), as well as the new playfield/parking lot on top of the gallery, behind the Eagles’ Nest conference center/Parks and Recreation office.

The gallery required a huge excavation. It was filled with a special permeable material, plus gravel and miles of PVC drain pipes. Board members were looking down one of many vertical inspection ports which will be cut-off at ground level and capped. The surface will be seeded or covered with sod.

The system can store water or shunt excess water to creeks and flood-control channels, north and south of the site.

Although big enough, no regulation team-sports will be played on the gallery field. The grading required a bowl-shaped field, rising at the east end, near the kids’ play area.

Boardmember Andrew Maron commented that renewed facilities will benefit much of the county.

“It’s quite a complex,” he said. “With six tennis courts as well... then you add Olympic High School next door” with its Silverdale Stadium.

Other elements will include a traffic circle on Fairgrounds Road, Hundreds of dogwood and snowberry bushes, nearly as many maple and birch trees, more than two dozen light towers, a second gallery to be installed by the project’s finish the end of June, 8-foot-tall cyclone fencing plus baseball netting and back stops, a round-robin drop-off driveway for parents, room for concession stands at the nexus of the fields, portable bleachers, permanent restrooms and as many as 500 parking spots.

The remodel is the result of a $4.2 million tax-income disbursement from the Public Facilities District, plus another $1 million from county coffers.

County commissioners approved the project in August 2002. The PFD is a special taxing district that rebates sales tax for recreation. Bremerton received about $7 million in seed money to start construction on its long-planned conference center/hotel complex and downtown redevelopment.

The rebate also paid for improvements to the pavilion, across the street to the north, where sports can be played year-round. Also more on-site/off-site camping.

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