Baseball field improvements to be complete this fall

by Laura Bednar

Aug. 15 board of education meeting

The Independence Local School District is in the midst of upgrading its baseball field to create a more professional athletic space.

Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling said some improvements are complete and others are in progress, with the goal of finishing the venture this fall. Last year, new dugouts and a backstop were installed and drainage was upgraded. Added fencing will be installed in September, and the bullpen will be done by October.

The district paid for the fence, a new scoreboard, sound system, dugout materials and drainage.  Money for an infield irrigation system came from the athletic booster club and individual donors. Dreiling said a local company donated the labor.

Head baseball coach Jim Crooks received a $5,000 grant from the Cleveland Guardians for field improvements.

Dreiling said future projects include stadium seating for home-team fans and bleachers for visiting-team fans. Alumni will be invited to purchase metal plates imprinted with their names for individual seats in the stadium seating.

No improvements have been made to the field since the early 1990s, according to Dreiling.

Independence Board of Education member Ron Bernstein said, “It’s going to be like a college field.”

Financial update

Treasurer Eric Koehler said the district received its fall tax collections, which were positive. Residential property tax collections increased 2% from $3.3 million last year to $3.4 million this year. Commercial property tax collections saw a 7% increase from $2.3 million to $2.5 million. The district collected $1.2 million in tax increment financing revenue.

The board approved the fee structure for the 2023-24 school year, which included pay-to-play and classroom fees. Bernstein asked how Independence fees compared to other schools. Superintendent Ben Hegedish said his anecdotal discussions and observations indicate that Independence is very low. He added there was little change in the fee structure from last year.

Board member Andrea Marek asked why there are magazine fees when students use digital devices. Hegedish said magazines like the “Scholastic News” still have value. Board President Joan Mencl said some of the magazines include lessons and other work for students.

In other news

A new tennis club team was started at Independence High School. The team plays an Ohio High School Athletic Association schedule but is not a varsity team. Hegedish said the club team was student-driven and kids petitioned to make it happen.

After success last year, the district is again waving fees for high school students to attend home varsity sporting events. Otherwise spectators will pay $10 if paying in cash or $8 plus a processing fee if paying by card.

Hegedish said he will likely propose a modification to the district schedule so students will not attend school on April 8, 2024, during the solar eclipse. He said he has had preliminary discussions with the city about opening the stadium that day for viewing. “It’s a once-in-a-sometimes-lifetime opportunity,” he said. ∞