Hurdles ahead for proposed West Leechburg sports complex
There’s plenty to do before the first race can be run or the first pitch is thrown at Leechburg Area School District’s proposed spring sports complex.
The proposal to hold baseball, softball and track events at the site of the former West Leechburg Elementary School site ran into some apparent hurdles during a meeting among officials from the school district, West Leechburg and architects and engineers.
Parking seems to be the biggest concern, so far, for borough officials.
Leechburg has played its baseball games there for more than 40 years, even before the elementary school was closed and razed. Adding two more sports would cause parking problems, particularly if two or all three sports were playing simultaneously.
While 1,400 parking spaces are required under state building codes for an outdoor venue, borough officials indicated they would settle for far less.
Right now, there are about 40 parking spaces. Five school bus parking spaces also are designated.
Borough officials say parking along Main Street in the right-of-way, as often happens now, won’t fly. They fear on-street parking, with increased use of the facility, would make the road too narrow for fire trucks to navigate.
“Our goal is to get everything in one spot,” said Leechburg Area Superintendent Tiffany Nix.
Part of the district’s plan is to move Leechburg’s softball games from Gilpin-Leechburg Community Park to the new complex. Home plate of the softball field will be in the area where Main Street curves toward the borough building.
But that brings up another problem the architects will have to overcome: The current outfield fence is about 180 feet. School board member Melanie Knight said the fences need to be at least 205 feet from home plate, not 180.
With high school softballs now made of synthetic materials, home run balls are flying out of the parks, unlike the old cork-centered balls.
Another challenge facing the proposal is sand.
Borough Engineer Lucien Bove and Councilman Len Kotvas spoke of a large swath of underground sand in West Leechburg that would impact the field and sanitary system should excavation be needed.
“The problem is, you can’t fit a size 12 foot into a size 9 shoe,” said Councilman Len Kotvas. “All we’re asking you to do is work within our parameters.”
The school district’s next move is to talk with Keith Cole of Building Insurance Underwriters, who handles West Leechburg’s zoning and code enforcement.
If Cole denies approval, the school district can appeal to West Leechburg’s zoning hearing board.
West Leechburg officials were clear, though, that they support the school district’s plan and want to have the sport complex in their borough.
“We are looking to go forward,” said Gary Bell, West Leechburg council president. “This will improve the community. Progress is on the way and we’re going to be part of it.”
Craig Collins of Axis Architects said he plans to set up a meeting with Cole within the next two weeks.
Permits are also needed from Westmoreland County Planning and Development, along with the Westmoreland Soil and Conservation District.
George Guido is a freelance writer.