Seventeen years after its opening, Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett is about to receive a facelift.
The four-field complex located at 400 Severs Duecy Road is set to undergo renovation starting in July. The work is scheduled to be finished in the spring of 2020 before the start of Little League baseball and softball seasons.
The $4.65 million project includes the complete resurfacing of all four fields. The fields are currently sand-based with a natural turf outfield and a synthetic and earthen infield. The new renovations will convert the fields into a completely synthetic surface.
“You can use it in a lot of different weather types,” Everett Parks assistant director Bob Leonard said. “You can use it throughout the year and it doesn’t get torn up the way a natural turf field would.”
The synthetic surface also is easier to maintain, which will be beneficial during times of heavy usage, such as the week in May when the Class 3A Northwest District and 4A Wes-King Bi-District softball tournaments are played at the facility. The two tournaments combine to play 34 games over a one-week span, with the majority of the games occurring over the final four days.
“There’s still maintenance that has to be done,” Leonard said, “but not nearly the amount you would have with the typical sand-based (field).”
Some other renovations include the installation of energy-efficient automated LED lights, the paving of and added parking to the Northeast lot, new bullpens for softball and baseball, and the improvement of underlying field drainage and handicap accessibility.
Also being added are field markings for youth soccer and adaptive recreational baseball and softball. The latter gives Phil Johnson Ballfields the opportunity to host Miracle League games and tournaments for developmentally and physically challenged youth.
The only other Miracle League field in the county is located in Monroe.
“This would give us now four (more fields) and there are a lot of opportunities,” said Tammy Dunn, development director for the Snohomish County Sports Commission. “Of course there’s the tournament opportunity, but I think the real big benefit is the opportunity for the youth that have a disability that can’t play regular baseball or fastpitch. They now have a place to play in the community.”
The complex has been host to numerous youth softball and baseball tournaments over the years. City officials said they hope the added improvements will make the fields an even more desirable location for such tournaments.
“We’re always working with the community and the Snohomish County Sports Commission to try to be a draw for regional and national tournaments such as the NWAC fastpitch tournament or the (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association District 1) fastpitch tournaments, along with college showcase fastpitch tournaments, which are big draws as well,” Everett Parks business manager Cory Rettenmier said. “… Now that we have the facility that’s much more desirable because it’s all synthetic, we may have a better time getting those tournaments.”
Dunn mentioned the 3A state high school tournament as a potential target. She said putting together a strong proposal with the school district and city for the WIAA would be key.
WIAA state softball tournament host sites have been determined through 2021.
The complex isn’t as spacious as some of the other sites around the state such as Regional Athletic Complex — the home of the 3A state softball tournament in Lacey — but the intimacy of the setup at Phil Johnson gives spectators the ability to take in more than one game without much hassle.
“A lot of times people have made comments about the layout of Phil Johnson, how it really is tight, but it actually adds a whole new level of enjoyment to a game when you can bounce around and you can watch four games pretty easily,” Rettenmier said.
Dunn said the new surface will help the complex become a more desirable destination for “offseason” tournaments in the fall and winter as well.
Those tournaments include college showcase fastpitch tournaments.
Even with a rich history of successful softball teams at the high school level, Snohomish County has found itself on the outside looking in when it comes to hosting college showcase fastpitch tournaments.
Dunn said that West Coast Premier is set to host a tournament at Meadowdale Playfields in Lynnwood this fall, and a successful tournament could lead to an annual event. Once the Phil Johnson renovation is complete, the tournament could become a multi-venue affair, allowing for more teams and games.
“Our organization is excited to have (Phil Johnson Ballfields) back in our inventory to tell event owners that we see at different sports conference about the types of facilities we have,” Dunn said.
Everett Parks received grants of $500,000 and $250,000 from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and Youth Athletic Facilities Program, respectively. Phil Johnson, president and founder of Millstone Coffee whose charity donated $2 million for the complex’s original construction, donated $50,000 toward the renovations.