Sticker shock for planned improvements to DeLand’s Melching Field at Conrad Park baseball stadium left the City Commission looking to the future for some of the changes.
The City of DeLand and Stetson University have been working on renovations to Melching Field — which was originally built as a joint effort between Stetson University and the City of DeLand in 1999 — since last year. Setting aside $5.8 million in the 2021-22 budget for improvements to the baseball stadium, the city and Stetson agreed on a 50-percent match for costs.
After bidding the project out, DeLand Public Services Director Chad Gamble brought three options to the City Commission June 6.
Option one would pay for stadium improvements, including “perimeter fencing and padded walls, three new rows of seating and concrete repairs,” Gamble said. The city’s total price tag with this option would be bumped up to $6,633,678.
Option two would include all of option one’s improvements, plus a new pavilion and ADA-accessible stadium ramps. This option would have bumped the price for Stetson and DeLand up by $2.66 million, but this plan is what the university was most interested in, Gamble said.
A third option “projected the needs into the future,” Gamble said. This option would allow for the immediate approval of option one’s improvements, with the addition of concrete plans to move forward with what option two would have allowed in the future when costs become less prohibitive.
All of these improvements are in addition to various other contracts already in the works as part of the funds the city matched with Stetson University initially. Other contracts include improvements to seating, the stadium’s turf, security and the sound system.
Some of the increased costs also come from the city not winning a $1.2 million ECHO grant, which the city had built some of the budget around. Without that grant, the city needed to allocate funds in its place.
Citing concerns about overspending on one project when budget-setting for next fiscal year is just around the corner — and more capital projects are on the horizon, too — the City Commission opted for option one.
“My heart wants to do more,” Mayor Bob Apgar said, “but, intellectually, and in the city’s best interest, I think option one is the best option right now.”
City commissioners still voiced their interest in moving forward with the improvements proposed in the other plans, but doing so down the road in a different fiscal year; ideally when costs come down.
The City Commission unanimously approved option one for the Melching Field improvements, bringing the city’s total allocated budget for the project to a little more than $6.6 million.