December 14, 2017
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has approved a $496,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant that will be awarded to the City of Oak Ridge for the purpose of renovating Blankenship Field. The grant will receive an equal match from the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation.
The funds, totaling roughly $1 million, will be used to make a number of upgrades to the facility, including, but not limited to: installation of synthetic turf, concrete walkways, synthetic track, new fencing, signage for the Cedar Hill Greenway trail head, and additional restrooms. On December 11, City Council voted to amend an earlier resolution to include all the enhancements specifically outlined within the grant contract. The expected date for project completion is June 1, 2018.
“Blankenship Field is a true landmark, part of our City’s remarkable and fascinating student athlete history,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said of the facility. “This is our opportunity to make improvements that will be enjoyed by all for many years to come. We are targeting to have the upgraded field and stadium open for the class of 2018’s graduation ceremony. For now, this is a welcome Christmas gift for Oak Ridge!”
The TDEC grant includes a stipulation that the entire facility be open for public use during non-event times. As per that requirement, Blankenship Field and its amenities will be operated like a City park, meaning it will be open to the public from dawn until dusk every day. The only exception would be during scheduled sporting events or other scheduled community activities that may take place inside the facility throughout the year. The City has coordinated with the Oak Ridge Board of Education to create a joint operational agreement for management and maintenance of the stadium facilities moving forward.
“It’s important to remember the goal of this project – creating a gathering place so the Oak Ridge community can use the field for much more than football,” Recreation and Parks Department Director Jon Hetrick said. “These changes will essentially be adding another City park to an already impressive list of green spaces in Oak Ridge. The entire City will benefit.”
The City applied for the TDEC grant in 2016 and was notified of acceptance and approval earlier this year. The contract, received on November 28, was thoroughly reviewed by City staff and signed by Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. The document was then returned to state officials in early December. TDEC estimates that the fully signed contract will be sent back to the City within four weeks. Work is expected to begin in January once the document is received.
About Blankenship Field: For over 70 years, Blankenship Field has been the home of the Oak Ridge High School Wildcat Football team. The facility, named after former superintendent Alden Blankenship, is located on Broadway Avenue near Historic Jackson Square. After opening in 1943, it quickly become the largest gathering place for Manhattan Project workers and their families. Learn more online: blankenshiplegacy.org/.