Natchez High, Cathedral will play first game on new Chester Willis Field Tuesday

Published 6:13 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The completion of the $2.2 million improvement at Chester Willis Field will be showcased on Tuesday when Natchez High School and Cathedral School baseball teams play each other there.

“The playing surface is complete and has been for weeks, but there were other issues that still needed work that would have created safety issues were we to have allowed play earlier. The bleachers were not complete and the sidewalks were not complete,” said District 1 County Supervisor Wes Middleton, who spearheaded the total renovation of the field.

Chester Willis Field, owned by Adams County, was constructed in the late 1930s and known as Liberty Park. Natchez minor league teams began play at Liberty Park in 1940 when the stadium is said to have had a capacity of 1,400 in 1941. By 1949, Liberty Park was listed as having a capacity of 2,700. It was home to the Natchez Indians, a team in the Cotton States League, which was owned by a group of Natchez businessmen and played there from 1948 through 1953.

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Middleton said final work is happening now with the completion of installation of new bleachers and finishing touches on paint.

“The county is setting the scoreboard and flag pole right now,” Middleton said.

The county’s board of supervisors approved several change orders at its meeting Wednesday morning, which deal with paying for scaffolding for the painting contractor and completing chain link and decorative fencing around the park.

Architect Joey Furr of Baton Rouge told supervisors that after the change orders approved on Wednesday, the county would have used all but approximately $6,000 of the $2.2 million in bond funds allocated for the project.

“Adding new bathrooms were originally in the discussion,” Middleton said. “We were talking about building them out of shipping containers, and they were going to be nice. The architect has used them before on other projects. But by the time we pricing them, the price had doubled. We just could not fit new bathrooms into the budget.”

Supervisors on Wednesday said they would like to see renovation of the existing locker rooms and installation of new bathrooms and may look to those as a second phase of the project. Furr said he would compile design and costs of the locker room and present them at the county’s next meeting. Design of the bathrooms is already complete.

Middleton estimated the new bathrooms will add approximately $200,000 to the project and new locker rooms will likely add an additional $250,000.

Supervisors said they will seek to discuss with the Natchez-Adams School Board the possibility of participating in the cost of the locker room project.

Middleton said the new baseball field is state of the art.

“You have to see it up close to appreciate it,” he said. “The view from the road just doesn’t do it justice.”

Middleton praised the work of Nathan Stubbs and his staff at NK Stubbs, which was general contractor on the project.

“I think having a local contractor, and particularly Nathan Stubbs, has been very beneficial to the county because of his love for and commitment to our community. Nathan Stubbs and his crew have done a phenomenal job from day 1,” he said.

Middleton said the Adams County Road Department team, under the supervision of Road Manager Robbie Dollar, has provided lots to the project.

“They have really stepped up and provided services to save the county money and get this park ready in time to play ball on Tuesday,” he said.

“The members of the road department have worked their butts off. They along with Johnny Williams, the county’s maintenance supervisor, set 26 foot tall I beams for scoreboard and they are there today setting a flag pole. These are great guys. We have some very good people working for the county,” Middleton said.