City ponders bleacher shade at Bickle-Schmidt ball parks

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
The city may spend $450,000 to build shade structures over the bleachers at the eight Bickle-Schmidt ball fields, with construction starting April 1 and wrapping up by the first week of May.

A $450,000 project to shade the eight ball field bleachers at city-owned Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex should relieve the No. 1 complaint there, according to Jeff Boyle, parks director for the city of Hays.

“Originally we were seeing more complaints about the playground not being in place,” said Boyle on Thursday evening at the regular work session of the Hays City Commission in City Hall, 1507 Main. 

“That project is done and everybody is happy with that,” Boyle told the commissioners. “But we’re still hearing about shade. So now it became the No. 1 complaint that we receive out there.”

Boyle is recommending the commissioners approve the shade project next week during their weekly commission meeting. 

Right now the city has 700 square feet of shade at either end of the bleachers on each field. Adding more shade behind the backstops will more than triple that to 2,130 square feet, he said.

“What is nice about this is it’s a continuous structure, so the sun can’t come in from varying angles,” Boyle said. “Right now on the separate units that we have, you can get the sun coming in from the back and from the side, so, literally, your 700 isn’t true, depending on the direction of the sun.”

Adding shade is a good idea, indicated Mayor Sandy Jacobs, for the competition ball fields at the 110-acre complex off the U.S. Highway 183 bypass. The complex at the western edge of town hosts local and regional tournaments, as well as games for the Hays Recreation Commission’s outdoor rec sports leagues.

“I’m really happy that we’re continuing to do this,” said Jacobs, citing upgrades at competing ballpark facilities near Hays. “The economic impact of being able to attract those tournaments, we’re going to have to keep our eyes on what’s going on around us as well.”

Out of five bidders, Kansas-based Quality Structures Inc., Richmond, submitted the low bid of $451,280.

Shady fans

The plan calls for replacing polyethylene tarp and metal shade structures in place now with a wooden-pole and metal-roof structure on each of the eight fields.

The leading edge of each proposed roof is 16-feet tall, said Boyle, which is what the existing shade structures are now.

“So if you’re sitting in a bleacher, the current visual you get, it will cover, most fly balls you can see,” he said. “So we kept the front of that roof at that same level.”

The difference is on the backside of the roof.

“The current one is about 14-foot,” Boyle said. “We’re dropping from 16 foot to 12. So if you can imagine the sun coming down in the west, at 12 foot rather than 14, and being extended longer, we should really have nice coverage.”

The design calls for wooden poles and a wooden frame supporting a green painted metal roof in the same color as the existing shade over the playgrounds.

“As part of the bid, they are wrapped in metal, so you wouldn’t actually see wood and nails and those sorts of things,” Boyle said.

Nesting birds in the roof can be a problem, messing up the bleachers, he added.

To prevent that, “we asked that the underneath side of those shade structures be tinned as well,” he said, including the soffits.

“With the shear wind factor, we won’t have a problem with these coming apart?” asked Commissioner Ron Mellick, referencing straight-line winds that have taken off other tops locally.

Boyle said the Quality Structures have ratings that meet all the city’s minimum code specifications for wind and snow load, and are rated for 125 mile-per-hour winds.

“You can’t get much more than that,” said Mellick.

Unlike the existing structures with metal poles and fabric tops, which cost about $2,800 annually to maintain, Boyle said the Quality Structures are zero-maintenance.

The city already has Quality Structures elsewhere, including over one of the playgrounds at Bickle-Schmidt, two at the city’s dog park, one near the current maintenance shed, and others, he said.

“We’ve had no problems at all,” said Boyle. “We’re very pleased.”

Quality of life

Work on the project would start April 1 and be completed the first week of May.

Funding for the shade structures will come from proceeds of a countywide quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in April 2020. Collections began in October 2020 at the city’s cash registers, and the state passed along to Hays its first round of the money in December 2020. From its share, based on population, city officials have estimated the city will get about $700,000 annually.

“You may recall the commission had some discussions about doing some quality of life things with the city’s portion,” Boyle told the commissioners. “This is one of the things that was talked about rather heavily because it’s our No. 1 complaint now that we have out there.”