Redwood City baseball field to reopen with new turf

Hawes Park, which has been closed for renovations since April, will reopen by Dec. 8. (Photo: Alexandra Wexler)

Baseball and softball enthusiasts in the Redwood City area will have a new field to play on this holiday season.

Hawes Park, which has been closed for renovations since April, will reopen by Dec. 8, according to Christopher Beth, the director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services for Redwood City. If all goes well, the park could be ready in time for Thanksgiving. “We’re just waiting for PG&E to hook up the electrical,” Beth said.

The field is adjacent to Hawes Elementary School and was last renovated 40 years ago. It will reopen with new aluminum bleachers, a new restroom and scorekeeper’s booth, a structure to provide shade on sunny days and a wrought-iron gate and entry arch bearing the facility’s name.

But the most significant change for youth and adult ballplayers is in the outfield, where natural grass has been replaced with synthetic turf to conserve water. Converting the field to synthetic turf saves the city about a million gallons of water a year, Beth said.

Before and during the renovations, Beth and his department responded to concerns from some community members about the cleanliness of synthetic turf and whether it could increase injuries.

“We’ve had Cal EPA out, Gmax testing (for synthetic turf), vapor testing, lead testing, and everything’s come back negative,” he said.  “They’ve tried to grow cultures of bacteria in the field, but anything that they’ve tried to grow, including staph, they can’t do it.”

As for injuries, he said there’s much more give in synthetic turf than in Astroturf and no ruts or holes to trip in, unlike on a natural grass field.

“Little League was initially very resistant to [the change], but then they went to a tournament up in Santa Rosa where all the fields were artificial turf, and they came back very excited,” said Shawn White, a member of the Redwood City Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission.

In addition, synthetic turf provides more predictability in terms of the way a baseball or softball ball bounces.

“Generally speaking, our experience has been that once people get an exposure to the artificial turf, one of the things they do like is the playability,” said Robert Slusser, another member of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission.  “Plus, you can use it year-round, and it looks pretty.”

The Redwood City National Little League, which plays on the field, seems more or less indifferent to the turf change. “The infield is still dirt, so a lot of its going to stay the same for us,” said Scott Sammons, the President of the Redwood City National Little League Board. “It does allow us to have more playing time, though, and less rain outs.”

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