The natural grass baseball field at Everett Memorial Stadium will be converted to an artificial playing surface. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

The natural grass baseball field at Everett Memorial Stadium will be converted to an artificial playing surface. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Everett Memorial Stadium’s baseball field converting to turf

The Mariners, Everett School District and others had to sign off on switch to an artificial surface.

EVERETT — Last spring the Everett High School baseball team, which is based at Everett Memorial Stadium, didn’t play a single game on its own field because of wet conditions on the grass. Indeed, the Seagulls only conducted a single practice on Everett Memorial Stadium’s baseball field, instead having to squeeze practices in on the adjoining artificial-surface football field, working around Everett’s track and girls soccer practices.

The story was the same for the Everett Community College baseball team, which is also housed at Everett Memorial Stadium. The Trojans had 22 games scheduled for Everett Memorial last spring. Just the final two wound up being played there.

After an unusually wet spring washed out baseball at Everett Memorial Stadium, it was finally decided that enough was enough.

Work is scheduled to begin within the next two weeks to convert the playing surface at Everett Memorial Stadium’s baseball field from grass to artificial turf. The joint venture between the Everett School District, which owns the facility, along with the Everett AquaSox minor-league baseball team and Snohomish County, is expected the solve the wet-field problem once and for all.

“We’re very excited about it,” Everett School District athletic director Robert Polk said. “Obviously it gives us a reliable baseball facility to help ensure we’re able to get games in. Everett Memorial Stadium has been a fantastic site for district and regional playoffs over the years. The artificial surface means we’ll be able to host those games in the future.”

The Snohomish County Council is expected to give the final approval for its portion of the funding for the project this week — a vote scheduled for Monday was tabled until Wednesday. Once that approval happens, ground will be broken either later this week or next week. If all goes to plan the new surface will be ready in time for Everett High School’s first baseball practice on Feb. 26. However, rain could affect whether the project stays on schedule, meaning the completion date could get pushed back into mid-March.

Four baseball teams use Everett Memorial Stadium as its home: Everett High School, Everett CC, the AquaSox of the short-season single-A Northwest League, and the Pacific International League’s Everett Merchants.

“I have a pretty good view from my office of the baseball field and I know when they can get on the field or not,” said Everett School District executive director of facilities and operations Mike Gunn, who’s in charge of the project. “When this project is completed there shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t get on the field.”

Everett Memorial Stadium, located at the bottom of a geographic bowl, has always had issues with drainage, particularly in the outfield. It’s been a recurring issue for Everett High School and Everett CC, the teams that use the field during the spring. But the problem got out of control this past spring.

“Our parents were pretty fed up with it,” Everett High School baseball coach Alex Barashkoff said. “I think the parents were instrumental [in pushing for the change]. They definitely had a major influence, and rightly so because there are some parents who had older kids go through it and they were tired of it. The school district wasn’t making any progress, and when things got this bad [the parents] weren’t going to let it get away.”

While all the parties directly involved with Everett Memorial Stadium were on board with the conversion, there was one other organization that needed to sign off on the change: the Seattle Mariners. The AquaSox have been a Mariners affiliate since 1995, and they needed the OK from the Mariners to play on an artificial surface. Gunn said that in the past the Mariners objected to having the AquaSox play on an artificial surface. However, there was no objection this time.

“We didn’t get anything officially signed off,” AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff said. “We spoke to them to get their stance to see if they were OK with us playing on a synthetic surface. They were fine. They understand the need for the facility, which is also used by the high schools.”

The AquaSox will become the third of the Northwest League’s eight teams to play on an artificial surface. Tetzlaff said the other two, the Eugene Emeralds and Hillsboro Hops, have had no problems or complaints about their artificial surfaces.

The original estimated cost of the project was $1.25 million. Both the county and the AquaSox pledged $300,000, with the rest paid out of Everett School District’s capital funds project. The county’s contribution is in the form of a grant, while the AquaSox will contribute $30,000 a year for 10 years while receiving the ability to sell naming rights to the stadium in return.

Gunn said the winning bid ended up coming in under the estimated cost, meaning the project was able to upgrade to a higher-quality baseball-specific surface, while also making other improvements to the facility.

Everett Memorial Stadium is following a Pacific Northwest trend of converting baseball fields to artificial surfaces. A majority of the high schools to the south in the KingCo and Metro leagues play on artificial surfaces. However, only a handful of schools in Snohomish County, such as Lake Stevens, Monroe and Mountlake Terrace, have artificial-surface fields.

Cascade and Jackson, the other two high schools in the Everett School District, play home baseball games on grass fields located on campus. Gunn said there is no plan to replace those fields, though Jackson’s football/soccer field has been converted to an artificial surface and Cascade’s football/soccer field is in the process of being converted.

If you have an idea for a community sports story, e-mail Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

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