The baseball and softball operator at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield is investing $2.5 million to upgrade diamonds at the park.
Bullpen Tournaments and the city of Westfield announced Thursday that synthetic turf will be installed on the infields of 18 of the 26 diamonds at the park. The remaining eight already have a turf surface, as opposed to natural dirt.
Bullpen has hired Dalton, Georgia-based AstroTurf to complete the project. Work began earlier this month and is expected to be complete by April.
The turf is expected to replicate the look and feel of grass and clay, but provide more durability and drainage.
The upgrade should allow fewer game cancellations, according to Blake Hibler, director of operations for Bullpen Tournaments. In 2017, Bullpen had to cancel or reschedule close to 3,000 games and practices because of the weather's impact on the diamonds.
Hibler said the synthetic turf should eliminate 80 to 90 percent of those delays and cancellations. For example, if it rains overnight, usually the first morning games—if not more—are cancelled on the natural-surface diamonds because the ground is still wet. But with the turf, the morning games won’t need to be delayed.
“For us, this was about our customers and the experience they have when they come to the park. No one wants to sit in a hotel room, while out of town, for a baseball tournament,” Hibler said. “But like any outdoor event, weather can have a major impact on the experience. Synthetic turf allows us the ability to be playable quicker.”
He said the only weather-related playability issues after the switch will be snow, frost and lightning storms.
The city of Westfield owns and oversees Grand Park, but contracts with Westfield-based Bullpen to run the baseball and softball operations. Bullpen is funding all of the diamond improvements and is responsible for any damages.
When asked why the city didn’t initially install turf on all of the diamonds before the park opened in 2014, city spokeswoman Erin Murphy said, “It is common that baseball diamonds are not surfaced with artificial turf, and there is a cost associated with turf fields.”