The Wenatchee School District is moving forward with a girls' softball complex after the school board approved a $4.1 million contract to build the facility Tuesday night.

Halme Builders of Davenport, Washington submitted the lowest of three bids and will begin construction soon with a schedule of finishing the project by August.

The facility is being constructed because the district has been cited for a Title IX violation, which requires equal treatment for male and female athletes.

The district's current field for high school baseball features all-synthetic turf and is located across the street from the high school. At the same time, its softball teams utilize facilities at Walla Walla Point Park which lack the same amenities.

The new varsity softball field will be located at Triangle Park near the Apple Bowl and Recreation Park

The school board slightly downsized the project during its Tuesday meeting by removing a main gate entryway feature to reduce cost overruns. Dropping the entryway will save $100,000.

The board opted to keep field lighting ($60,000) and fencing ($40,000) in the project as more essential to operating the complex.

The lighting will allow for softball play during times with shorter daylight hours and the fencing will separate the softball field from the adjacent Pioneer Middle School. The entryway was seen as an expendable, mostly aesthetic feature.

School board President Julie Norton said the lighting is especially important in bringing the girls’ facility on par with what the boys have.

"My personal opinion is that's essential, having a student that's participated in high school events," said Norton. "Trying to schedule things so there's enough daylight to me is inequitable to change their opportunities for play just based on lighting, because we wouldn't have to do that for the boys."

The softball complex will also no longer include adjacent soccer fields, another move to cut back on costs.

The project is being funded through the district's capital projects fund, which entered the year with some reserve money.

Superintendent Cory Kalahar said the district is prepared to dip into its general fund to cover cost overruns and ensure the project gets finished.

School board member Martin Barron said the funding challenges will boost public awareness of the project.

"The school district, through taxpayer-originated funding, is the capitalist who funds this facility," said Barron. "The whole community gets to use it. It's not necessarily bad that it's tough for the school district to find the money to do it, because it reminds everyone in the community that we need it and we need to do it together."

The school board unanimously approved the $4.1 million contract with Halme Builders Tuesday night.

The school district is currently trying to fill a severe $9 budget shortfall by the beginning of the next school year. 

Spokesperson Diana Haglund told KPQ the $4 million being used on the softball complex is required to satisfy the Civil Rights complaint and could not be used to help pay down the budget shortfall. 

45 Famous Alumni from Washington State High Schools

Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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