Shifley Park to get major overhaul, Rash getting new turf as part of $21M athletics project for OPS

February 23, 2024 | 12:14 am

Updated February 23, 2024 | 1:20 am

A major overhaul is coming to Shifley Park over the next year as part of a $21 million athletic project for Owensboro Public Schools. The project also includes upgrades to Rash Stadium. 

The Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday approved a bid of $20,898,000 by A&K Construction out of Paducah for the entire project.

The biggest upgrade to Rash Stadium will be installing a new turf field. The project also includes repairing bleachers, renovating the locker room, replacing the wall along Ford Avenue, and addressing some other safety concerns such as drainage issues. 

The work at Shifley will be much more extensive, affecting both the soccer facility and the baseball/softball complex. 

To start, the soccer field will also be replaced with new artificial turf. 

Chris Bozarth, Owensboro Public Schools Director of Facilities, Maintenance & Technology, said both football and soccer fields are overdue for new turf. 

“The typical life expectancy in turf is 10 years,” he said. “We’ve run ours 15 and 16 years because we work really hard to maintain it well. We put a lot of safeguards in … if we can almost add 50% more life to it, we’re doing well for the taxpayers and our players.”

That’s not the only new turf coming to Shifley. The softball and baseball fields, which are currently all dirt/natural grass, are being converted to full turf — infield and outfield. 

“There’s a lot that goes into that decision, and it’s not taken lightly,” said Owensboro High School Athletic Director Todd Harper. “Some of it does get into being cost-effective … but a big issue is just the amount of time that the coaches and that our staff put in on field maintenance. There still is field maintenance with turf, but nothing like a natural field. The rainouts, the constant worrying about if we’re having a hard winter or a wet spring or things like that, the turf takes care of a lot of those issues. That’s why we turfed soccer and football back in the early 2000s.”

Both fields are also being rotated for a more efficient setup. Each field would essentially be rotated 90 degrees clockwise, making the home plates near each other. From home plate looking out, the baseball field would point northeast; the softball field would point southeast. Stadium-style seating will surround the home plates of both fields.

Between the softball and baseball fields will be a new building that houses an indoor batting facility and locker rooms on the inside, with covered dugouts on the exterior. 

A new building will be added to the west side of the soccer field (near Centre Court). It will house locker rooms and covered seating for the players, along with a second floor for announcers and media. 

Currently, there are no locker rooms for any field at Shifley Park, and the only restrooms in the entire complex are in the concession stand near the soccer field’s bleachers.

Following all the changes, there will only be one entry point to the Shifley complex. People will enter from the south parking lot off Bittel Road. The lot on Dallas Avenue will remain open but there will no longer be an entry to the park there.

Bozarth said work should begin in the coming months. He said they expect the turf replacement for the football and soccer fields to be completed prior to the Fall 2024 season. The baseball and softball upgrades will begin this summer following the 2023 high school season, with the fields expected to be ready in February. 

Harper said the upgrades have long been on his wishlist, so he’s grateful the project is finally about to begin.

“I’ve been pushing for this for a very long time,” he said. “I’m very excited for these projects and appreciative of the board for seeing the importance of these renovations.”

February 23, 2024 | 12:14 am

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