Commissioners awarded an $817,000 contract to JHC Corporation for a set of upgrades to the softball fields and surrounding park area, an expense that will make up the bulk of the nearly $1.2 million renovation budget it was given in the 2011 SPLOST, said Tom Bills, senior construction project manager for Cobb parks.
Bills said the batch of projects JHC will handle includes necessary maintenance, such as replacing the park’s water lines, as well as cosmetic repairs, such as constructing new fences.
He said most of the contract money will go toward scrapping the aging wooden retaining walls that dot the park and replacing them with sturdier, more attractive cement ones.
The softball fields will get new dugouts and drainage systems, Bills said, as well as new irrigation systems.
He estimated his department has already spent about 30 percent of its overall SPLOST budget to tap a design firm and to perform smaller-scale upgrades.
Bills said putting up new scoreboards was one of the first things his department did.
“It really improves the experience for parents who want to see how their kid is doing,” Bills said of the new scoreboards. “It made a lot of people really happy.”
Bills estimated Rhyne Park hosts about 14,000 visitors every year. He said the park’s tennis courts attract “tons of people” who use them for lessons, leagues and casual play. The park also boasts a pavilion and a playground for children, Bills added.
The parks department will spend the remainder of its $1.2 million budget for Rhyne Park on minor projects it aims to complete using in-house resources, he said.
Among the upgrades it plans to fund separately are improvements to the park’s existing concession facilities and exchanging fixtures on the light posts that illuminate the softball fields.
Bills said his department often handles larger renovations, such as the overall SPLOST revamp, by breaking up the proposed projects into sets and enlisting different organizations to complete them.
The parks department handles “little pieces of projects” using its own resources, Bills said, and hands over larger projects to general contractors such as JHC.
“We can be more cost-efficient if we pull some sections out,” Bills said of the long list of scheduled upgrades laid out in the SPLOST budget.
“We stretch every dollar.”
Bills said he expects construction to begin in September.
The series of renovations JHC will handle are slated for completion by mid-February — just in time for the teams to return for the spring season.
Samantha French, president of the Rhyne Park Girls Softball Association, said roughly 80 girls ages four to 12 spent their spring season at the park.
She said the seven teams that make up her association will be forced to move their practices to Nickajack Park in Mableton for the fall season, where they will have to make due with using just one field.
Still, she said the association is “excited” about the renovations and the opportunity they bring to grow the league.
“A lot of parents feel like the park has been neglected, and they’re looking forward to the park being a visual representation of the hard work the girls put in,” French said.
She said the first game of the upcoming season will fall right after Labor Day, with competitions and practices continuing until the end of October.
The renovations will compel the association to play most of its games away, French said.
“We can’t host a full day of games with all those age groups on one field,” she said.
But after Rhyne reopens, French said the teams should be able to double their practices thanks to two new infields.
She said many of the parents are unaware of the work that will soon seal off the park for the rest of the year.
“The communication hasn’t been great from the county to even tell us what the renovations are going to be,” French said.
“We didn’t know what the renovations were going to include until the last month. I found out probably — at the most — six weeks ago that we weren’t going to have a fall season at Rhyne Park. It just made our planning a little difficult because of the late notice.”
Smyrna Councilman Wade Lnenicka said he “appreciates” the work Cobb is putting into the park, which he noted is surrounded by the city he serves.
“The park needed some renovating,” Lnenicka said. “I’m glad to see the county taking care of it and supporting the citizens in this part of the county.”