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Oak Ridge awarded TDEC grant for Blankenship makeover

The city of Oak Ridge has announced that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has approved a $496,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant that will be awarded to the city to renovate Blankenship Field. The grant will receive an equal match from the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation, according to a city press release issued Thursday..

The funds, totaling roughly $1 million, will be used to make a number of upgrades to the facility, including, but not limited to: installation of synthetic turf, concrete walkways, synthetic track, new fencing, signage for the Cedar Hill Greenway trail head, and additional restrooms.

On Monday, the City Council voted to amend an earlier resolution to include all the enhancements specifically outlined within the grant contract. The expected date for project completion is June 1, 2018.

“Blankenship Field is a true landmark, part of our City’s remarkable and fascinating student athlete history,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said of the facility. “This is our opportunity to make improvements that will be enjoyed by all for many years to come. We are targeting to have the upgraded field and stadium open for the class of 2018’s graduation ceremony. For now, this is a welcome Christmas gift for Oak Ridge!”

As an added bonues for the community, the TDEC grant includes a stipulation that the entire facility be open for public use during non-event times. That means that Blankenship Field and its amenities will be operated like a city park, open to the public from dawn until dusk every day. The only exception would be during scheduled sporting events or other scheduled community activities that may take place inside the facility throughout the year.

The city and the Oak Ridge Board of Education have created a joint operational agreement for management and maintenance of the stadium facilities moving forward, according to Thursday’s announcement.

“It’s important to remember the goal of this project – creating a gathering place so the Oak Ridge community can use the field for much more than football,” Recreation and Parks Department Director Jon Hetrick said. “These changes will essentially be adding another City park to an already impressive list of green spaces in Oak Ridge. The entire City will benefit.”

The City applied for the TDEC grant in 2016 and was notified of acceptance and approval earlier this year.

The contract, received on November 28, was thoroughly reviewed by City staff and signed by Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. The document was then returned to state officials in early December. TDEC estimates that the fully signed contract will be sent back to the City within four weeks.

Work is expected to begin in January once the document is received.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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