No recreational baseball or softball games in Kent will be cancelled this year despite the forced closure of the Kramer Ball Fields.
The worked feverishly this week to reschedule games for close to 800 youth and adult athletes after learning Friday that the only access point to the city's flagship ball fields — the Redmond Bridge — is unsafe and had to be closed indefinitely.
Nancy Rice, recreation supervisor for Kent parks, said no games will be cancelled because of the bridge closure.
"I’ve been to meetings, and I have just been constantly on the phone to figure out how we can get this to work," she said. "And when I finally figured it out, it’s just been a huge relief. The schedules aren’t finalized as of yet. They will be by (Friday), so all the coaches will be picking up their schedules and handing them out to the kids."
Rice said several surrounding communities and organizations offered their ball fields for the parks department to use. , , the Village of Brady Lake and Stow all will host some of the parks department's games. Officials in Ravenna and Rootstown also offered their fields, but Kent hasn't had to schedule any games on those fields yet.
. The season starts May 2.
Games will be spread out at the Allerton fields on the Kent State campus, and Brady Lake officials have given the city permission to use their ball fields seven days a week. The parks department will invest in the field at to make it game-ready, and the softball field at also will host some games. A few adult-league games will take place at and .
"Trying to save everything with the help of everybody around has just been great," Rice said.
She said they were forced to cancel the annual opening day ceremonies, which mark the start of the season in a relaxed, celebratory fashion at the Kramer Ball Fields.
"So that was kind of a sad thing for everybody," Rice said. " That’s a big event for us."
The Kramer fields at Fred Fuller Park are isolated by the Cuyahoga River and the railroad tracks to the south. The only access to the fields is the wooden bridge, which is about 70 years old.
John Idone, Kent Parks and Recreation director, said they weren't surprised when a regular inspection showed the bridge may be unsafe for use.
"We were hoping it was going to last a couple more years in order for us to have the funds available to replace it," he said.
Most bridges are inspected annually, but because of the age of this structure city engineers inspect it every three months. The most recent inspection showed one of the piles may have shifted, so the city shut down the crossing for safety reasons.
"Their concern was, if the bridge was loaded up bumper to bumper with cars and the water was up, the worst-case scenario is a large tree is coming down and hits one of the piles that’s been deteriorated, (and) you could have a catastrophic failure," Idone said.
The parks department has already started working to replace the bridge, Idone said. The Ohio Department of Transportation awarded the city a $968,000 grant to replace it within the last 12 months, and the city must cover 20 percent of the construction costs. Idone estimates the entire project will cost between $1.1 million to $1.2 million when finished.
The construction schedule puts the opening of the new bridge in late 2012 or early 2013. The bridge will remain closed to pedestrians and car traffic indefinitely.
"Best case scenario is we could be under construction next summer," Idone said. "So, at a minimum, the fields will be closed for this summer and next summer. We’re hoping that they would be available by the spring of 2013."