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Fate of Ray Winder Field unclear.

THE FATE OF THE FORMER HOME OF THE Arkansas Travelers, Ray Winder Field in Little Rock, remains undetermined. Last week a parks consultant, John Hoal of H3 Studio Inc. of St. Louis, unveiled three possibilities for the 200-acre War Memorial complex.

But those proposals will depend on what can be done to save the baseball field.

Russ Meeks, the Travelers' vice president and general counsel, and others are trying to form a nonprofit organization to raise money to maintain the field so colleges and high school players can use the 75-year-old ballpark.

"We have not made a formal appeal for funds," said Rex Nelson, who is a Travelers board member. The group trying to form the nonprofit organization doesn't have a name yet.

The Travelers still have a lease on the field through the end of the year.

Nelson said maintaining the field would cost about $75,000 annually. And any improvement to the stadium is another matter. Money to replace the roof and renovate the stadium would have to come from corporate donors or foundations, Nelson said. The cost of renovating the stadium is also undetermined.

"For now, though, we could have baseball games in there next spring at very little cost," Nelson said.

Little Rock City Director Stacy Hurst said one of the consultant's proposals calls for repairing the park and involves minimal changes.

Hoal charged $80,000 for his proposals, and the city of Little Rock picked up $25,000 of the bill while contributions from the City in a Park of Little Rock, a nonprofit group that seeks to support the Little Rock Parks Department, covered the rest, Hurst said.

In the first plan, the tennis courts at War Memorial, which have been open to the public at no charge, would be eliminated and some courts at the Rebsamen Tennis Center would be made free to the public to make up for the loss. The footprint of the tennis courts would be turned into a multipurpose field. Also, three holes of War Memorial golf course's 18 holes would be relocated, giving the park more green space, and the creek that runs through the park would be enlarged.

Under this plan, Ray Winder Field stays put. Hoal's second proposal calls for the rehabilitation of the park. The golf course would be reduced to nine holes, creating additional space for walking paths and playing fields. More water features would be added.

Also under this plan, Ray Winder Field would be torn down and the Little Rock Zoo would take over the space.

The third scenario calls for the elimination of both the golf course and Ray Winder Field.

Nine holes would be added to the Rebsamen Golf Course to make up for the loss of holes. The Little Rock Zoo would expand to Ray Winder's location and possibly further. The plan also calls for a new library and the creation of a lake large enough for boats.

The costs for each of the proposals haven't been determined yet, Hurst said. The park's fate, she said, will depend on how much funding the city can secure and the nonprofit group's success in raising money to save Ray Winder.

Any plan would have to be approved by the Little Rock Parks & Recreation Commission and then the Little Rock Board of Directors, she said.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Author:Friedman, Mark
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 2007
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