It’s been 20 years in the making. A multipurpose athletic complex for Centralia College is nearing its final stages before construction is set to begin, said Steve Ward, former vice president of finances and administration at the college.
The draft schematic plan for the layout of the fields has been reviewed and the college and is meeting with the baseball, softball and women’s soccer coaches on Wednesday, July 7, to get final approval of the schematics.
The turf complex, planned to be in the $3 million range, will house a baseball field, softball diamond and a full, NCAA-sized soccer pitch.
The southeast corner of the field will contain the fastpitch diamond, the southwest corner will hold the baseball field and the soccer pitch will run across the outfields. Both the softball and baseball fields will have bullpens, and the college is looking to carve out space for batting cages, Ward said.
Once the coaches approve the schematics, the college will move into detailed construction documents.
It marks the first major update since the Centralia City Council voted in favor of vacating the 200 block of South Iron Street and an adjacent alley that runs through the location of the proposed athletic complex.
The complex is set to be built directly across from the college’s gymnasium, south of Centralia College Boulevard to Walnut Street and west of South Silver Street to South Rock Street.
The area, equivalent to about 20 to 30 individual lots, encompasses a block and a half and the college has been buying lots piece by piece since the master plan was first approved in 1999.
“You can’t just go and kick people out of their houses,” Ward said. “You have to wait for them to sell it to you. That’s kind of what we did. We just waited and waited, and toward the end when we had the majority, most of the people wanted to sell it because they knew it was coming.”
The city has had a copy of the master plan since the beginning and has known the college’s intention of putting an athletic complex there. In fact, Centralia College’s 20-year Master Plan is included in the City of Centralia’s Comprehensive Plan.
Ward said having the baseball, softball and soccer fields at a central location next to campus has been a long time coming. Both the baseball and softball teams currently play and practice at Fort Borst Park, and the soccer team practices and plays at Centralia High School’s Tiger Stadium.
Plus, a lot of the amenities needed to support an athletic field will be provided by the college’s gymnasium across the street, such as restrooms, a snack bar, locker rooms and the control room for the videos and cameras.
Even better, Ward said, it also brings a nice addition to the downtown area.
“This was our plan all along; to grow in that direction,” Ward said. “When that master plan was developed, part of the development was, ‘how do we work with the city to have a comprehensive look at how things flow?’
Now, the athletic field will be diagonal to the student apartments, near the library and post office and just one block from the downtown area.
“People from the games can walk downtown,” Ward said. “Hopefully when they come down to watch their kids play, they park there, walk downtown, visit some of the shops and restaurants and walk back to watch the game.”
Centralia College baseball and softball games are typically on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and soccer games are usually held Saturday night.
“Hopefully it’s a constant flow of people coming to the college, and now has a real easy tie to the downtown area,” Ward said.
The new complex will also mark the first time since 1989 that Centralia College has had an athletic field located on campus. The previous one, Noble Field, was built in 1922 and was originally a rodeo ring before converting to a football field.
Located between Walnut Street and Pear Street, the grandstands were demolished in 1971 and the field was turned into what is now Kirk Library in 1989.
“This is basically going back and recreating a version of Noble Field back on this campus,” Ward said. “It makes Centralia College more of a college town than ever.”
Ward also praised the City of Centralia for being easy to work with on this plan over the past two decades.
After Wednesday’s meeting with the coaches to approve the final details, the college will move into detailed construction documents and set a date for construction of an athletic facility that will provide for the community for decades to come.