Officials near agreement to sell THS baseball field

Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government and the parish’s school district are close to finalizing a deal that would remake Terrebonne High’s baseball field into an open pit, though a replacement field with marked improvements could be delivered as early as next year, officials said.

By a unanimous school board vote, Schools Superintendent Philip Martin was granted the authority to draw up a contract to sell the field to parish government. Martin said the district would replace it with a new and improved baseball field while using some proceeds to revitalize the adjacent athletic complex.

Parish government desires the property for use as a retention pond, a piece of a grander scheme to alleviate flood concerns in the Bayou Lacarpe Basin. The dry pond and related flood-control plans would drain water that during heavy rain events accumulates on Tunnel and Corporate boulevards, Hollywood Road, Levron Street and other roadways, Parish President Michel Claudet said.

Informal negotiations yielded the transfer would net nearly $600,000 for the school district, with all monies dedicated to construction of a new baseball field for Terrebonne High and adjacent athletic facilities, Martin said. A replacement field would be located at Southdown Elementary, where the current facility has been for more than 40 years.

“We’re paying regular value for the land,” Claudet said. “We’re paying what I would consider a premium for the relocation of the facility and the reconstruction of it. The reason is, obviously, the people of Terrebonne High School have no desire to give up their facility unless they’re going to get something at least as good, if not better.”

The parish has incrementally worked to improve drainage in the basin for years, and the proposed retention pond at Southdown Elementary is a key element of that ongoing work, Claudet said. Completed projects include the Baroid Pump Station, a four-pump system that drains into the Intracoastal Waterway, and installed culverts around Barrow, Magnolia and Roussell streets.

Parish officials planned to build another pump station that would drain from Corporate Drive toward La. Highway 311, but the project hit a snag.

“We had to cross over like eight pipelines,” and it became economically infeasible, Claudet said. “By digging out the retention area, that’s the equivalent of that pump station on that side.”

The cost to construct the retention basin, including property acquisition and other related expenses, will fall within the budget the parish originally set aside for the pump station, Claudet said.

Before the work on the Bayou Lacarpe Basin as a whole can be completed, the parish would need to install one additional pump station near Levron and Polk streets, “but we don’t know how it’s going to affect everything until we dig this out,” Claudet said.

The retention pond will encompass six acres of land. Dirt displaced to dig the dry pond will be transferred to the pending Field of Dreams project on La. Highway 311, allowing the parish to cut costs otherwise required on that project.

“We’re trying to make things better,” Claudet said. “What we’re prepared to do is pay them the value of the land, but then in addition, give them a half a million dollars. That’s going to give them plenty of money to relocate the field and do whatever they want. … It’s up to the school board at that time.”

The school board’s project to replace the field, Martin said, would be “multi faceted” but definitely inclusive of a new “Tiger Field” on Southdown Elementary property.

“We’re regenerating that field,” board member Roosevelt Thomas said.

The infusion of cash dedicated for that purpose would mark a new day at the site, which has not seen capital improvements from the school district in “probably 40 years,” Martin said.

In absence of taxpayer money spent on the field field, citizens have poured in their own time and money to maintain and upgrade the stadium, according to school alumni and a booster club president, who were wary the volunteerism would have been for naught.

“My main concern is that they weren’t selling the filed without having another field for the kids to play on,” said Brad Rodrigue, president of the Terrebonne Athletic Booster Club. “It seems like we have that, and most of my concerns are alleviated. I want to stay on top of it to make sure it does go through, but I’m pretty sure it will.”

Rodrigue and other alumni have said parents and coaches spent time and money mowing the grass, planting new seedlings and delivering and leveling dirt to maintain the field since it was constructed in the mid-‘70s, according to estimates.

Martin and board President Roger “Dale” DeHart have indicated a commitment to revitalizing restrooms, the concession stand, the press box and scoreboard to make it “a first-class facility,” Rodrigue said.

It’s unclear whether a new field would be open ahead of spring 2015, Rodrigue said.

Any agreement that district and government officials reach would require approval from the school board and parish council. A proposal could be forthcoming within the next month, officials said.

Terrebonne Parish’s government is looking to buy Terrebonne High’s baseball field to convert it to a retention pond to alleviate flood concerns in the Bayou Lacarpe Basin.