TOP STORY > >Contractors rebuilding sports fields
Leader staff writer
“Overwhelming,” is how Sherwood’s Parks and Recreation Director Sonny Janssen described the damage to the city’s sports complex the morning after an EF-2 tornado roared through the area.
The tornado also caused about $750,000 worth of damage to Sylvan Hills High School, forcing seniors to move to the Bill Harmon Recreation Center, but they’re now back as repairs are being made as quickly as possible.
“I was at the sports complex the night before just after the storms and it didn’t seem so bad, but I was seeing just what the flashlight was picking up. The next morning I saw the whole picture and it was overwhelming,” he said.
The complex has been closed since the tornado hit April 3. Janssen said it will remain closed as repairs are being made and the area is being made safe and secure. “We just need the general public to stay out of the area. We have heavy equipment going four five different ways as everyone is working fast and hard to repair the damage,” Janssen said.
As examples of why to stay out of the complex, Janssen said some light poles are being taken down and replaced. Between the old ones coming out of the ground and the new ones going in, big holes exist. The same is true for fence posts being replaced.
“We don’t want anyone breaking a leg or getting hurt in any way,” he said.
Most of the repair work, Janssen explained, is being done by contractors hired by the insurance companies.
“Contrary to rumors, we haven’t received any insurance money. Not even any estimates. But the insurers have hired a number of contractors directly to make repairs.”
At the Sherwood City Council meeting Monday night, Janssen gave the aldermen an update on the complex. “A lot of work and repairs have already been accomplished,” he said.
Janssen said contractors have removed most of the damaged fencing (about a mile’s worth), replaced most of the damaged sheet metal on the softball fields, repaired or ordered 14 sets of bleachers, ordered bleachers and dugout covers and are re-aiming all the softball field lights.
Janssen said the softball fields were not damaged as heavily as the baseball and other fields and should be ready for games first. “I can’t say if that’ll be tomorrow or the next day or five weeks from now. But as soon as they are ready, we’ll be playing ball on them,” he said.
In the meantime, the youth soccer, softball and baseball programs have been moved to other locations. The Sherwood softball and baseball programs, run by the Optimist Club, are playing games in Cabot, Jacksonville, Rose City and North Heights. The soccer programs have been moved to Victory Baptist School and Sylvan Hills High School. “The soccer season will probably be finished before we reopen the sports complex,” Janssen said.
He said overall the youth programs are running smoothly. “As smoothly as it can with games all over the place and parents having to get their children there,” Janssen said.
The parks and recreation director told the aldermen that the city gets daily updates on progress. “It’s coming together, but it takes time,” he said.
The tornado that hit the complex, according to John Robinson of the National Weather Service, was an EF-2 tornado with winds at 111 to 135 miles per hour.
Robinson said the tornado’s path was more than seven miles long. It started near the intersection of Camp Robinson Road and Donovan Briley Boulevard in North Little Rock, passed through the southeast corner of Camp Robinson, ripped through the North Little Rock airport, then through Sherwood, hitting the sports complex and the high school, before zipping through Gravel Ridge. The tornado’s path ended about 1.5 miles north of Gravel Ridge, according to Robinson.
“Understand that the city of Sherwood is committed to re-opening a safe and kid friendly athletic facility as soon as possible,” Janssen said.