Permanent seats are being installed, and soon the baseball artificial turf will go down on the field at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.
At 10 a.m., the Sports Journal was the first media outlet to report that FEMA authorized the city of Kokomo to place turf at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. This story was updated at 4 p.m.
BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – With the end of the Indiana General Assembly comes the end of controversial Senate Bill 100. Authored by State Senator Jim Buck (R-Kokomo), the bill would have allowed the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to file a cease and desist order for the city of Kokomo to halt construction on Kokomo Municipal Stadium. But in the end, FEMA agrees with city officials and has given permission for artificial turf to be installed immediately in the new baseball stadium.
On Jan. 22, SB100 passed through the Indiana Senate 41-8 and was referred to the House of Representatives, which sent the bill to its Committee on Natural Resources, of which Representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) is a member. But after an initial hearing, committee chair Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) allowed the bill to die in committee without a second hearing.
“It basically died on the vine,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. “Senator Buck proposed legislation and claimed there was an emergency that needed immediate attention. He was successful in getting it through the Senate, but once it was transferred to the House it was looked at pragmatically.”
Goodnight said Rep. David Wolkins (R-Indianapolis), a member of the Natural Resources committee, contacted the city and spent an hour and a half looking at all of the documents on the stadium and property in question, then toured the site on his way back to Indianapolis.
“He recommended the bill be tabled,” said Goodnight. “He said he didn’t think it was an emergency, so they never revisited the legislation. I said it was politics and I think I have been proven correct. I am thankful to the Republican leadership in the House and the Democrats and Republicans on the committee for recognizing that. We are glad the legislative session is over and we are past that hurdle.”
Goodnight said he holds no remorse for government entities – IDHS and FEMA particularly – for ensuring the stadium was up to code.
“There is nothing wrong with every unit of government checking and double-checking compliance; it is in everyone’s best interest,” he said. “But what is unfortunate is Senator Buck never came and spent time or asked for documents or materials to give a true evaluation. But a representative from another county did a deep dive and evaluation.”
Despite a request, Sen. Buck did not make himself available for comment on this story.
FEMA agrees to allow turf installation
As a result of Senate Bill 100 not being acted on during the 2015 legislative session, city and federal officials announced that FEMA has given Kokomo the green light to place turf on the field of Kokomo Municipal Stadium
“Because of this extra scrutiny, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and FEMA took a long evaluation of our design plans and all of the aspects of it and they have agreed and permitted our plan on artificial turf and its design. They see the design plan on the turf is perfectly acceptable, so in the next week or so you will see the turf go down. That gets us closer to the completion date, with a target of May 30 for the first Kokomo Jackrabbits game.”
Cassie Ringsdorf, senior external affairs specialist with the FEMA Region V office in Chicago, agreed with the city.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency, working in collaboration with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, has evaluated the specifications provided by the City of Kokomo for the synthetic playing field and found the proposed product to be acceptable for use on deed restricted parcels,” she said via email. “FEMA continues to work with IDHS and the city to identify and resolve remaining non-compliance issues with the stadium construction.”
FEMA addressed the turf issue – as well as a sidewalk question – in a letter dated April 27, 2015, from FEMA Regional Administrator Andrew Velasquez III to David Kane, executive director of IDHS.
“Based on the specifications and turf runoff calculations you provided, the synthetic turf system would be allowed on parcels 3 and 4,” said Velasquez. “Per your latest design drawings and specifications provided, sidewalks would be allowed across parcels 5, 6 and 7.”
City administrators confirmed that parcels 3 and 4 of Kokomo Municipal Stadium were the last two contested areas on the baseball stadium field.
Construction on downtown’s Kokomo Municipal Stadium is currently hitting a furious pace. With the field now leveled and ready for turf, other work crews are finishing the structure, installing light poles, improving infrastructure and installing seats – bright red seats visible from Apperson Way. Goodnight said SB100 did cause some construction delays and the anticipated start of the high school season in the stadium never materialized.
“Unfortunately, the only people who were affected were some of the high school seniors who may not have an opportunity to play on the field,” said Goodnight. “But it is coming along. When the turf goes down it will change the look of the stadium.”
Not a flooding issue
As has been documented in the past, Goodnight emphasized that the construction of Kokomo Municipal Stadium was done in conjunction with a multi-million dollar flood mitigation plan for the Wildcat Creek.
“There will be more capacity in the creek bed because we have found more capacity in other areas of the creek,” the mayor said. One of those areas is the flood plain created south of Foster Park on Washington Street. “There will be more water capacity area in the creek, and not in commercial or residential areas.”
He also noted that the stadium itself should not flood – the bowl of the stadium was built five feet higher than the last record flood. Flood waters will flow around the stadium into the parking lot and retention pond.
“The Indiana Department of Emergency Management and Department of Natural Resources approved our permits back in August and September of last year,” said Goodnight. “It has never been about the flooding; it has been about the deed restrictions on the eight parcels. But the applicable uses on those parcels allows for public restrooms, pavilions, associated foundations, golf courses, walk paths, ball diamonds – there is a whole litany of things that are allowable.”
Goodnight said that while the 0.06 acres (or 0.5 percent of the stadium project) in question is still not resolved, the local administration is in constant contact with IDHS and FEMA – which is one reason the turf has been approved to be placed.
“We believe we have met the terms and conditions,” said Goodnight. “We are working with them and are not opposed to possible modifications (with the hazard mitigation grant). They are giving it extra scrutiny and we feel comfortable with what we submitted.”
Goodnight said that while the plots are in contention and lawsuits are still in play, construction will continue.
“All of the plots are outside of the seating bowl,” he said. “A couple of those were on the end of the plaza where we purposefully put the rest rooms. We are going to play ball on May 30.”
As the Kokomo Jackrabbits would say, it is time to #GetJacked.