WESTLAKE — After more than three decades with few upgrades, Westlake High School's baseball field is nearing completion of major upgrades, and work on its softball field will follow.
"It is super nice," Damon Hardesty, the District 9 Calcasieu Parish School Board member said. "Since they have built the baseball field in 1986 or 1987, we haven't spent any money on the baseball or softball facility."
The biggest upgrade to the two fields was a complete artificial surface. GeoSurfaces, a synthetic turf manufacturer and installer in St. Gabriel, recently finished the turf project on the baseball field.
"Upkeep on a baseball field is very costly," Hardesty said. "Being able to do it in a bond issue, and the people knew what we were putting in, makes it a lot easier. A (Class) 3A school has a hard enough time raising enough money to keep up a (natural grass) baseball field."
Hardesty said a new 12-foot-tall outfield wall was installed as well as new light standards with energy-saving LED lights and netting behind the backstop that extends from dugout to dugout. Work on the dugouts is nearing completion and will be followed by the installation of new bleachers that will more than double the seating capacity of the old ones.
The inside of the concession stand was remodeled, Hardesty said, and the classroom pod that serves as the baseball field house on the third-base side will eventually be relocated behind the left-field wall. The scoreboard was raised 5 feet to keep it visible above the outfield wall, he said.
"There will be two rows behind the backstop and one row going down the home side," Hardesty explained. "It will seat roughly 250.
"Before the seating may have been a 100. It will seat 96 or 98 on each side, and the bleacher will be elevated three feet above ground level. The concession stand is still the same, we just gutted it and redid it. The layout was kind of bad."
Hardesty said bids for improvements for the softball field will go out soon and should be finished before the 2021 season. He said the softball field will get an all-artificial turf surface, new dugouts, new backstop netting and a new concession stand. New lighting was added to the field a couple of years ago, he said.
"We are trying match exactly what we did on baseball — the shape of the field, backstop netting," Hardesty said. "We will have to build a new concession.
"The present one," he said, "is in really bad shape. We are going to try to have it done before softball season. The softball field was built sometime in 1988 to 1990."
The athletic facility improvements at Westlake High School are part of a larger project that includes improvements to S.P. Arnett Middle School, Maplewood Middle School, Western Heights Elementary and Westwood Elementary.
"Over the next two years, there is going to be a lot going," Hardesty said.
It is all part of a bond issue that passed last year, he said. Included in the project is a six-classroom wing at Westlake High, Western Heights and another at Westwood that will replace a four-classroom pod. Westwood's gym will be rebuilt.
New roofs were installed at Westlake, Westwood and Henry Heights and work has started at S.P. Arnett.
Other improvements include enclosed hallways at Westwood and interior remodeling at each school.