Upgrades to Kuawa ball fields begin

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Heavy machinery works on the field Wednesday at Kuawa park in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Heavy machinery works on the field Wednesday at Kuawa park in Hilo.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Heavy machinery works on the field Wednesday at Kuawa Park in Hilo.

Work began this week to upgrade the long-delayed Kuawa ball fields in Hilo.

The park, located on Kuawa Street between Kamehameha Avenue and the Ho‘olulu Complex, was initially expected to be completed in October 2016 but was delayed to 2017 because of soil contamination and heavy rain.

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However, in 2017 it was discovered that drainage problems prevented grass from growing in the park as well as expected. In addition, removal of an old fuel line under the property caused further delays, while rain caused ruts and potholes in the fields’ surfaces.

“You remember, we had something like four to five months of just torrential rain,” said Maurice Messina, deputy director for Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Department. “All that rain, it ended up compacting the dirt, and there was no place for the water to drain.”

To rectify the problem, Messina said, crews have begun placing drainage pipes beneath the ball fields. In addition, the park’s sod will be replaced, with crews replanting grass and installing a “crown,” a higher point on the field that helps water drain properly.

Messina said the work is expected to take about two weeks to complete; although, it will take approximately a month for the grass to grow to an acceptable length.

“Another thing: This is at no extra cost to the county,” Messina emphasized.

Messina said the construction work is being completed using county equipment in a joint project by Kailua-Kona contractors Isemoto Contracting — which was awarded a $3.36 million contract in 2016 to build the two ball fields — and SSFM International, which designed the facility on a $316,570 contract.

“Everybody’s doing it because it’s in the public interest,” Messina said. “We didn’t have to force anyone’s hand.”

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When finally completed, the park will include a baseball diamond as well as soccer and football fields.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com