STEUBENVILLE - Visitors to two of the city's three large parks this year will find major improvements and additions and a new look for recreation in the community.
A $4.6 million dollar upgrade was completed late last year by Grae-Con Construction, grass has been planted, and it is now a matter of waiting for spring.
Belleview Park officially was unveiled to the public during a grand opening rally on Oct. 21 and then partially closed until this spring to allow the grass to grow.
UPGRADES?UNVEILED — Workers complete a new welcome sign at Belleview Park, where renovations were unveiled on Oct. 21. Upgrades included the addition of two new playground areas, a street hockey rink that is used in the winter as an ice skating rink and much more. - Dave Gossett
In addition to the five revamped ball fields, the upgrades at Belleview Park included the addition of two playground areas, a street hockey rink that has been flooded during the winter months to create an ice skating rink, six new tennis courts, a basketball court, a new gazebo and two picnic shelters, new restrooms and a new walking trail.
According to Tim Leist, an architect with MKC Associates of New Philadelphia who worked with Grae-Con, the infields of the three lower ball fields were rebuilt with a special calcium clay mix "that will greatly reduce the dust from the infields."
"And we have installed all new fencing and backstops to the lower and upper ball fields," added Leist.
"We are very pleased with the improvements and additions to Belleview and Jim Wood parks, and I hope the community is equally pleased. The upgrades have helped turn Belleview Park into the recreation jewel of our community and visitors to Jim Wood Park will see additional improvements and the addition of a splash pool that will be operational this spring," Recreation Director Dwan Johnson said.
"Jim Wood Park now has a new gazebo, splash pad, picnic shelter, playground, softball field and walking trails," said Johnson.
"I know people were upset with the timing of the construction and the fact the softball season was cut a little short. There is no good time to shut down a park but you can now see the results of the work this year. And when you return in this spring and see kids playing on the jumbo gym and families gathering for reunions at the new picnic shelters, you will know this has all been worth it," said Recreation Board President Kenny Davis.
"Good things come to those who wait and this is definitely a good thing," added Davis.
"I want to thank the Grae-Con Construction Co. for what they have done here and at Jim Wood ahead of schedule and within the budget," stated 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins.
Perkins also serves as the council recreation committee chairman, and he visited the park often during the construction work.
"I especially want to thank Jason Boroski, general superintendent for his oversight on this project. If anyone deserves a bonus for a job well done it is Jason Boroski," said Perkins.
The work at Belleview and Jim Wood parks started during the second week of January 2009 and was scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, but was actually completed two months ahead of schedule.
"We have new parking areas paved and grass planted in the new expanded area that was just a fill site for so many years," said Pat Hyre, project manager for Grae-Con.
"We feel this is the park we promised to the people of Steubenville. We cut back on the plans for trees, sidewalks and lights but we didn't cut back on recreation facilities. All parts of Belleview has been renovated and 70 percent of Jim Wood was upgraded," commented Councilman at large Eddie Joe Chanoski.
"We can add sidewalks and possible additional parking lots in the future as well as other improvements," Chanoski said.
The Belleview Park upgrade project also provided the city a chance to partner with Franciscan University of Steubenville to construct six new tennis courts.
"We built six new tennis courts in the west end of the park in conjunction with the university. We shared equally the construction costs and will share the utility costs with the university for the courts that meet NCAA standards as far as court surface, lighting and fencing," noted Perkins.
"The six new tennis courts have pacific blue surfaces with a dark green border and are absolutely first class," Perkins added.
According to Recreation Coordinator Luke Briningstool the park's new tennis courts also allow the city to promote youth tennis.
"Our parks and recreation department recently received a grant in the amount of $2,000 from the United States Tennis Associations Northeast Ohio Association to start up youth tennis lessons for youth within the Steubenville Community and surrounding areas," Briningstool noted.
"Each participant who signs up for the eight-week lesson in the summer will receive a new tennis racquet and at least one tennis ball for their personal use. This is an excellent opportunity for the City of Steubenville Parks and Recreation Department as well as the community. We have also applied for an additional $5,000 grant that could mean more assistance in providing tennis lessons to area youth," Briningstool said.
And while the $4.6 million renovations were made possible by the sale of the Belleview Golf Course and the University Boulevard Green Strip property to Franciscan University of Steubenville, a grassroots effort has lead to improvements at Beatty Park in the city's South End.
City officials also were pleased the $4.6 million upgrade of Belleview and Jim Wood parks had been completed at nearly 10 percent below the guaranteed cost.
"Grae-Con Construction did an excellent job in working with the city. And our city departments worked closely during the construction process to assist with water and sewer lines," noted City Engineer Michael Dolak.
"Project Superintendent Boroski and Project Manager Hyer were great at balancing their construction schedule around the recreational activities. And they came in ahead of schedule and finished $428 below their budget," added Dolak.
According to Robert Gribben III, vice president of business development for Grae-Con, "the savings were made possible by our aggressive work schedule and working with our subcontractors and suppliers. We took some risks at trying to obtain lower prices. But in the case of the paving company the price of oil went down which resulted in lower asphalt prices.
"This is the benefit of the design/build type of project. Any savings we achieve we try to share with the project owner. We try to offer incentives to the owners and our contractors. We also have really good people who have been working for my dad for years. Our supervisors have come up through the ranks," said Gribben.
"We take the approach that our last job is our reputation. Quality control is very important to us. Our jobs are based on our performance and our work quality. That's how we have always worked," Gribben added.
"This was a company that had a set guaranteed project cost of $4.6 million. They could have very easily said the project finished at $4.6 million. But they were able to achieve savings and that is money we did not have to borrow for this project. I commend them for their work and their approach to this job," declared former City Manager Bruce Williams.
First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto has commended the Steubenville Disc Golf Association for successfully lobbying city officials to fund an 18-hole disc golf course in the historic park.
"The disc golfers promised to bring new interest to Beatty Park and to clean up the area, and they have done exactly that. We are seeing more visitors to Beatty Park and people are enjoying the beauty of the park," said Diloreto.