The opening of the Big League Dreams softball complex six years ago and the shifting of city league softball to that municipal-owned venue drastically reduced the use of the lighted Morezone Field on Center Street just south of the golf course.
That may change, though, by the time next summer rolls around.
The Manteca City Council Tuesday directed staff to bump other park-related capital improvement projects to make converting Morezone Field into a baseball complex and doing various handicapped accessible upgrades a top priority. It would be used primarily for 13- to 15-year-old baseball play for the Manteca, Northgate. and Spreckels Park Little Leagues. Currently those three organizations are having a difficult time accessing the only other fields in Manteca suitable for that age group — varsity diamonds at the three high schools.
“In recent years Morenzone has only been used a couple of times a week for games,” noted Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford.
He added it is used for softball team practices but not much else. He sees the $510,000 project funded with growth-related fees collected specifically for park improvements as a way to make better use of an underutilized existing recreation facility. He also believes it will help keep young people out of trouble,
Councilman John Harris doesn’t disagree with the mayor about baseball being a good way to keep kids from getting into mischief. But he did balk at the price tag and the fact other recreation needs would be bumped.
While conceding the field conversion has been a priority of the mayor’s and Councilman Vince Hernandez for years, he thought it should have been placed in behind other projects already indentified by the council in the current budget.
The projects being bumped include conceptual projects to renovate the Lincoln and Northgate picnic areas, exercise stations at Woodward Park, and several playground upgrade projects.
“I may be about of touch with costs but $510,000 seems like an awful lot of money to me,” Harris said.
Converting the lighted field for baseball play has been talked about for years.
It will involve modifying the infield for 90-foot base lines and installing new bleachers as well as dugouts and fence modifications. Work needed for Morenzone Field also includes installing new concrete, making American with Disabilities Act improvements for access to the site plus to the existing restroom building, modifying irrigation for coverage of all new turf, new infield/warning track material, new outfield fencing, and netting to protect the golf course and Stonegate Apartments from errant baseballs.