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Park Redesign Aims to Protect Kids from Foul Balls

The city is moving forward on a baseball field design for Highlander Park that includes a concessions stand, netted playgrounds and a new aquatics area.

Dunedin’s Little League president hopes to childproof any future baseball and softball fields at .

Officials largely approved a  that would do just that during a Nov. 3 commission meeting.

The first phase of the updated plan is to replace the recycling dropoff center at the park with a  and add a concessions stand to the Little League area. Architecture firms are being solicited to design the fire station, and concessions are expected to go up next year. During phase two, the park's 35-year-old pool would be replaced with a .

The extra ballfields are just one of several proposed changes in the final phase of the plan, which is so far into the future that officials haven’t even budgeted for it yet.

The plan will be evaluated by future commissions before it is set entirely in motion, but for now, it aims to realign seven Little League fields and add two “big fields” for 13-and-older teams. The fields would be arranged in two user-friendly pinwheel layouts, with a netted, rubberized playground and concession area at the center of each design.

“One of our biggest concerns was making it safe,” Andy Sass, Greater Dunedin Little League president, said of the proposed playground area. “Smaller kids who have siblings play inside the batting cages at Fisher (Field). Can they get hung up in the nets sometimes? Yes. But are they protected from foul balls? Yes.”

Sass said the pinwheel-playground design was inspired by a facility near Lakeland. He thinks that putting playgrounds under nets will keep young children safe from foul balls.

“It also has to be in a location where the parent can still watch over them,” he added.

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