When Alton got the nod to host the American Legion Great Lakes Regional Tournament in 2015 and 2016, it knew it had some work ahead.
The home for the Metro East Bears baseball team, which includes players from Bethalto, Edwardsville, Alton, Roxana and various small outlying areas, is Lloyd Hopkins Field inside of Gordon Moore Park.
Hopkins Field has seen a lot of use over the years as the home to the Bears, the Alton Redbirds, the Marquette Catholic Explorers and the Post 126 Junior Legion squad. Its last upgrade was when Alton played host to the American Legion World Series in 2000.
Now AdVantage News, the city of Alton and the national organization of the American Legion have teamed up to bring another high-traffic baseball event to Alton.
Alton Public Works Director Bob Barnhart knew the makeover was necessary at Hopkins Field. Being on a big stage was a perfect excuse to get the ball rolling.
“We inherited the problem that Hopkins Field has not received the attention it has deserved for the last few years, and with the upcoming American Legion event we’ve decided to do some long-overdue and much-needed renovations to the fields and the facilities,” Barnhart said.
The work has been extensive already with renovations, which began at the tail end of the summer.
Concrete bollards have been removed from the third base dugout, the nets behind home plate have been taken down to fix and replace, the infield has been stripped, regraded and the sod replaced, field tile has gone behind home plate to help remove standing water, roofs have been replaced on dugouts, concession stands and the press box, and currently the fencing for the bullpens is being installed on the third base line.
It is also in the works to place bullpens and a batting cage down the first base line.
Barnhart admitted there will be more to do during the winter months to further the renovations.
“Once winter hits, we want to go in and repair the media building, the restrooms, the facilities upstairs,” he said. “The communication lines have already been repaired so we have fax, phone, etc. The scoreboard has been upgraded. We went through and replaced all the light bulbs.
“Other than that we’ve got a lot to do, but we’ve got a good start in a short amount of time and we’re looking forward to doing a lot more over the winter and into next spring.”
Barnhart also praised the community involvement, helping get the aesthetics at Hopkins Field more appealing.
“We’ve got a lot of involvement with community outreach groups,” Barnhart said. “I know Marquette High School, I’ve spoken with them, and their National Honor Society program is very much looking forward to helping us next spring paint some of the fences at the park and those types of groups, along with our internal staff and summer help, are the people we’re going to need to use and rely on to retool, reinforce and restain the wooden grandstand areas. We’re also looking to put some shaded spectator areas between home and third.”
With the current attention to Hopkins Field, Barnhart hopes these maintenance schedules can became more habit-forming than they’ve been in the past.
“That’s something I’m really trying to promote is a tighter maintenance schedule and paying attention to the little details, because the little details is what differentiates us from other parks,” Barnhart said. “It’s not just having a field, it’s having something special that makes us better than the rest. We have a special field in Hopkins Field, but we need to make sure we keep it up to specs so it can draw more tournaments and regional events into the park.
“There’s never really any down time.”