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The public will be able to enjoy basketball, pickleball, futsal and tennis on refurbished courts in St. Helens.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF ST. HELENS  - Three pickleball courts overlaid on a new futsal court. If it has been a while since you last visited Campbell Park in St. Helens, you probably recall the tennis and basketball courts were in desperate need of a makeover.

That's not the case today, because the city has installed brand-new sports courts that can be configured for basketball, tennis, pickleball and futsal.

Over the years, the city has been dealing with deteriorating conditions with the sports courts, due in part to soil issues.

Jenny Dimsho, associate planner and community development project manager with the city, estimates that the original courts were installed sometime in the 1980s.

"They were showing signs of wear and tear, with cracks and weeds coming up through the concrete," Dimsho said, adding, "In addition to their age, we knew that the ground below them was saturated and that was probably causing some of the cracks."

Dimsho continued, "Over time, the courts were settling into the soil. It was kind of a combination of problems."

After the courts went through a series of repairs, St. Helens officials decided to start from scratch.

"We took the courts out and realized that the subsurface was inadequate," Dimsho said. "They didn't properly compact gravel and sand to have a great sub-base to support concrete back when they were originally installed."

A contractor eventually did a soil amendment to solidify the soil.

The project to replace the courts started early last year, with the actual installation of concrete in late summer or early fall.

Fast-forwarding to today, new sports courts and fencing have been installed, but a planned parking lot expansion at Campbell Park has yet to be completed.

"There is a gap between the concrete walkway between the courts and the parking lot," Dimsho said, noting, "That's on purpose. We're expanding the parking lot so it can accommodate more vehicles. We are expanding toward the courts."

The other project component that remains incomplete is the stormwater retention area, located next to the basketball courts.

"It's kind of like a rain garden that we're constructing next to the basketball court," Dimsho explained.

Cost issues have surfaced as St. Helens proceeded with the sports court project.

"This project did encounter unexpected costs to deal with the soil stability," Dimsho acknowledged. "This project also went out to bid at a very difficult bidding climate with COVID and the cost increases associated with supply chain issues."

As an example, between the time the city went out to bid in January 2021 and awarded a contract in May 2021, the sport court material costs increased by 36%. Concrete costs went up 77% in that five-month period.

Dimsho said the project is funded in part by a grant of $187,000 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The remainder of the project, approximately $283,000, is coming out of the city's parks capital improvement budget.

While the courts are ready for play, pickleball nets are not available for rental right now. Users should plan on bringing their own if they want to play pickleball.

Dimsho said the ultimate completion date should be the end of April, which is the grant deadline.

"That allows us enough time, in the dry weather, in early spring and late spring, to finish the work," Dimsho said, adding the public works department has been very helpful in the process.

"I would love to be able to thank them (public works crews) for their hard work on site preparation and just being engaged in the project," Dimsho said.

These new sports courts are a welcome addition to Campbell Park, city officials believe.

"I hope by investing in Campbell Park, people can be more physically active and enjoy sports with their kids," Dimsho said.

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