For the third time, Hilliard will seek bids for construction of a Miracle Field, a handicap-accessible baseball diamond, at the Grener Sports Complex.
The sports park will be developed between Cosgray and Leppert roads, north of Scioto Darby Road. The Miracle Field is only one planned component of the complex, which is expected to include several soccer and lacrosse fields and a Vertical Adventures rock- and rope-climbing facility.
The Miracle Field and Grener Sports Complex would be built on part of the 103 acres the city agreed to purchase in 2014 from Hilliard City Schools for $40,000 per acre, a total of about $4 million. The facilities would be south of the Bo Jackson's Elite Sports facility at 4696 Cosgray Road, according to the city.
A Miracle Field enables adults and children with a variety of physical or mental challenges to play baseball games, including those organized by the Miracle League of Central Ohio, on a field that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. One of the league's Miracle Fields already is at Darree Fields Park, 6259 Cosgray Road in Dublin.
The desire to construct a Miracle Field stems from the goal of serving all residents through the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.
"That includes providing programs for and facilities for children with physical limitations," he said.
The accessible baseball field concept is a proven success that has been used nationwide, Ball said.
"There are several similar sites in central Ohio, and we felt such an accessible facility would be an excellent addition to our existing inventory of facilities," he said.
But the project still requires some early -- and necessary -- steps.
Twice before, the city has solicited bids for the field's construction, but no contractors submitted bids, Hilliard public-services director Albert Iosue said.
Iosue said he attributes the cold-feet reaction to the skepticism of contractors to be able to finish a "specialty item" at the engineer's estimate of $1.4 million the first two times.
On April 10, the city solicited bids for construction of the Miracle Field and sanitary sewer and water lines to serve the Grener Sports Complex. The engineer's estimate was $1.6 million for both projects.
On May 31, the city separated the projects, bidding the sewer and water lines with an engineer's estimate of $428,350. Boss Excavating & Grading was awarded a bid of $400,175 for the contract.
On July 18, the city bid for construction of the Miracle Field with the previous engineer's estimate of $1.4 million, but again with no takers, Iosue said.
Therefore, he said, the city will increase the engineer's estimate to $1.85 million, an increase of about $450,000.
At stake is a $400,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources earmarked for construction of the Miracle Field.
In order to receive it, the Miracle Field must be completed by June 30, 2020, Iosue said.
If the third round of bids isn't successful, the city would not have time to rebid it or meet the deadline, and it likely would forfeit the grant, Iosue said.
Hilliard City Council on Aug. 26, in its first session after its summer recess, discussed modifying the design to reduce the cost, but Iosue said the city did not have time to redesign the project and still meet the completion deadline required to receive the $400,000 ODNR grant.
"If we switch gears now, we are kissing the state money goodbye," council member Andy Teater said.
Teater also expressed concerns that leaving the money on the table would jeopardize Hilliard's future grant applications.
"I'd hate not to use the money" we asked for, he said.
Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department director Ed Merritt described the Miracle Field design as "not the Taj Mahal but not bare-bones either."
Iosue told council members $1.4 million is in the current capital-improvements budget for construction of the Miracle Field and an additional $600,000 would be required next year.
That amount includes about $450,000 for the increased cost and $150,000 for a standard contingency.
"With any major capital project, there is always the possibility that the final cost will exceed the projected cost," Ball said. "Generally, that happens because of unexpected obstacles and change orders. The city puts contingency funds in place in case a project experiences such things to allow the project to continue without returning to City Council for additional money."
Council member Nathan Painter said he supports the Miracle Field.
"If we can spend money on our lawsuits, we can spend money on a place for kids to play," Painter said.
City Council on Aug. 26 tabled an ordinance authorizing the construction of the Miracle Field, but only to allow it to remain on the agenda until the new cost is decided.
The ordinance would be amended, Iosue said, to include a contractor and amount when it is known.