Volunteers come to bat for Oilers

With the Peninsula Oilers season opener three days away, volunteers have come to lend a hand after the local baseball organization was thrown a curveball.


High winds lifted the roof and walls off of the press box Saturday at Coral Seymour Memorial Park and left a large pile of tin and wood debris in front of the concession stand. While the grandstand remains, a building inspector will have to check off the stability of the structure, which will need additional bracing of the backstop before the section can be opened to fans, said Oilers Board of Directors Vice President Ken Cole.

The total cost to clean up and repair for the damage is expected to cost $5,000 to $10,000, an expense not in the budget, Cole said.

Oilers General Manager James Clark said with the team arriving Thursday, normally he would just be working on daily upkeep and making sure the field is ready to go. With a roofless grandstand and in need of stabilization it has become a huge project just days before the season begins.

“It is a lot of added stress that sets me back,” he said. “If it wasn’t for all the help and generosity from the community, I would be out here 18-hours a day up until Saturday night trying to get everything done.”

Clark said one gentleman came by the field Wednesday and donated $1,000.

The roof collapse was deflating because the budget had been cut so much. In addition to his manager duties, Clark has taken on field maintenance. Oilers Head Coach Kyle Richardson arrived earlier than previously scheduled and has taken over field maintenance.

Clark said the grandstands, supported by steel pipes welded together, are inspected every two years by a structural engineer and they passed their last inspection last year.

Clark said his phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking what they can do to help. Harold Chambers, a friend of Clark’s, worked three straight 12-hour days to get the ballpark ready. On Wednesday, Chambers was putting up the backstop netting that was pulled off when the roof collapsed. ENSTAR Natural Gas Company sent two employees and a bucket lift to the field and Chambers spent most of Wednesday putting up the netting behind home plate.

Clark said while Chambers is a diehard baseball fan, he came out as a friend to return a favor. Chambers lives on Funny River Road and Clark came over and helped him clear tree brush from his property. When the evacuation was ordered from the threat of the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire, Clark opened up his home to the Chambers family.

“He is paying me back way more than I did for him,” Clark said. “We have known each other for 20 years and play softball together. I really appreciate his help.”

Daniel Lynch, another friend of Clark’s, volunteered his time to put up railing where the grandstand walls used to be. Lynch said all the grandstand end boards where the wall broke off are all split and will need to be replaced.

“This was a blessing in disguise,” Lynch said.

Lynch wanted to help his friend and asked him to give him a project he could handle.

“We are the unity in community,” he said.

Merkes Builders Unlimited in Sterling has been contracted to remove the debris and cut the team a deal for $3,000, Cole said. The clean up started Wednesday night and the crew was expected to be completed Thursday afternoon. The City of Kenai waived their dump fee, which would have been $1,000, Cole said.

Six inmates from Wildwood Correctional Facility were brought out on a work release program to pick up trash and brush from under the bleachers. Clark said their work saved him three days worth of work.

Hanson’s Roofing in Kenai donated a new roof for the press box. The grandstands will not have a roof put up and a new roof would not be installed until the season ended, Clark said.

Play-by-play announcer Dan Gensel rewired the public address system and the music and game announcements will not be affected, Clark said.

Lance Coz, the coach of the American Legion baseball team brought several members of his team to help weed the field. Catcher Kenny Griffin from Soldotna along with his teammates raked weeds from the warning track dirt and helped zip tie the backstop.

Griffin said while he has felt the grandstands move in the wind in the past, he never thought the wind would blow off the roof. With the help of volunteers the park will be ready, he said.

“As a legion team we play on this field now and again and we feel obligated to take care of it too,” Griffin said.

Clark said every year a windstorm would blow off a section of the outfield wall. A couple years ago the board considered a proposal for a total renovation and a new concession design would have cost $2 million, he said. Now his concern is just getting the ballpark ready for the season.

The board is coming up with creative fundraisers to raise money for the club, but those efforts cover other expenses, he said.

“If we have our first pitch on Sunday like we should, it will be all good,” Clark said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com


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