Hilliard leaders say they plan to take a little more time on their plan for a Miracle Field at the future Grener Sports Complex.

The city is applying for a grant extension that will allow additional time for its planning and possible relocation.

The project could be postponed for as long as a year, leaders said.

"Now that we have confirmed that we are not under a time crunch to complete the Miracle Field project, this is the time to evaluate and make sure what we are doing provides the best experience possible for the children in our community with disabilities," Hilliard City Council member Pete Marsh said.

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, according to David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

Marsh also said leaders "want to make sure we have the best location for the kids (who will use it)."

That location could include Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, which is south of the Grener Sports Complex site and closer to the city's core, he said.

"The master parks plan that was completed in September 2015 placed the Miracle Field within (Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park) in proximity to the existing baseball and softball diamonds," Marsh said. "It seems to me that we should evaluate if that is a better location than the current proposal that puts the field (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 sports park 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. Its facilities would be south of the Bo Jackson's Elite Sports facility at 4696 Cosgray Road, according to the city.

Meanwhile, Municipal Park at 3800 Veterans Memorial Drive already has restrooms and other support facilities to support it not yet in place at the Grener property, Marsh said.

The city has a contract for the installation of water and sewer services at the sports park, however.

Marsh also said the city should evaluate the playing surface of the proposed Miracle Field.

"We are currently considering a surface that is endorsed by the Miracle Field organization," he said. "Other communities around us have used surfaces that are affiliated with other organizations. ... The overarching goal is to create the best experience possible for the kids when they play; we need to take the time to ensure that we do that.

The flexibility to reconsider the location and building materials became possible after the city learned it could receive an extension on a grant it received toward building a Miracle Field or its equivalent.

Councilman Andy Teater said he reached out to state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), a former Hilliard council member, to inquire about extending a June 30, 2020, deadline tied to a $400,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Last month, council was working under the condition that a Miracle Field had to be completed by June 30, 2020, in order to receive the grant.

An email from Tim Robinson, program manager in the office of real estate for ODNR, advised Teater "the end dates on these contracts are not hard deadlines. There is no negative consequence for extending the contract end date."

The email goes on to say that although the contract is specific that a Miracle Field be constructed at the Grener (site), "if you were to develop a field that allowed use by individuals with special needs but was not branded 'Miracle Field,' I think that we could work around that with a documented change in scope."

To that end, council President Kelly McGivern directed Ed Merritt, director of the recreation and parks department, to confer with his staff and make a recommendation at the next council meeting Sept. 23.

In 2016, when Merritt was recreation supervisor for Grove City, he said, the city opted to build the "Grove City Dream Field" in lieu of a branded Miracle Field.

Specific vendors are required for the construction of a Miracle Field, Merritt said, and Grove City opted for the flexibility of building its own version of a handicap-accessible baseball field.

According to Robinson, extensions are given in six-month increments.

Clark Rausch, Hilliard's city engineer, said he would ask for a 12-month extension.

On Aug. 26, City Council tabled until Sept. 23 a resolution authorizing Merritt to enter into a contract with the intent of adding the contract amounts when identified.

Albert Iosue, Hilliard's public-services director, said Aug. 26 he would adjust the engineer's estimate for construction of the Miracle Field to $1.85 million, an increase of about $450,000 from the previous estimate.

The city has twice solicited bids for the project and received no bids.

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.

No bids were received.

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.

On Aug. 26, Iosue told council members he attributed the reaction to the skepticism of contractors to complete a "specialty item" for $1.4 million and suggested increasing the estimate to $1.85 million.

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