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Supporters of youth baseball in Fridley are hoping for a ninth-inning rally as they attempt to save diamonds slated to disappear as part of a multi-million dollar park renovation project.

Though plans to redo Commons Park have been in the works for more than two years and approved by the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, officials with the Fridley Youth Sports Association (FYSA) say it was just a few months ago they learned their baseball fields would be sacrificed to rebuild an existing building to provide indoor programming and add an ice rink and splash pad.

"We were never clear how finalized the plans were," said Jason Karsten, FYSA's president. "They came out with a menu of options of what you want to see in a park. They never said what you'd have to give up."

A grassroots community group called Save Our Sports (SOS) has joined FYSA's push to preserve their fields and quash a plan that would shift many games to nearby Community Park. That plan is unfeasible, says SOS co-chairman Jake Karnopp, because those fields have no lights, are used by adult softball teams and would force baseball to compete with youth soccer teams, which also use the ballfields almost every day of the week.

"We will have groups of kids not have a place to play," Karnopp said. "It will decimate our program."

SOS members planned to attend Monday's City Council meeting to make their case.

Fridley is in the midst of an ambitious $30 million effort to remake 28 of its 39 parks, and this year is completing an upgrade at Moore Lake Park with the large project at Commons Park up next. The city in 2021 surveyed residents when it kicked off its Park System Improvement Plan, and formed a task force to learn what amenities they want. A splash pad and an inclusive playground ranked as some of their top desires, said Mayor Scott Lund.

Karnopp said it's hard to argue with the survey results and agrees that adding the amenities the residents want would be good for the city. But not at the expense of baseball and FYSA's seven teams composed of about 170 players in T-ball through eighth grade.

The city does not offer youth athletics as part of its parks and recreation program. FYSA has filled that void since the 1970s.

Karnopp and Karsten claim their concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and say they were told as recently as January that plans for Commons Park were still in the planning stages.

At a Feb. 12 City Council Meeting, Mayor Lund said he wants to see Fridley parks better utilized and have a diverse array of activities.

"It's not supposed to be just a picnic park. It's not just supposed to be a ballpark. We want to make it more diverse so people can use it year-round," the mayor said.

In the months that followed, Lund said the city has stepped to the plate and has even offered $600,000 to go toward putting three basic fields without dugouts, lights or a concession stand on property owned by the Fridley Public Schools. That arrangement has not been approved by the school district, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Maher.

The city has also spent $25,000 in recent months redoing plans trying to accommodate baseball, the mayor said.

The flap over baseball fields comes as the city learned it may have to shrink the size of the proposed building at Commons Park as costs have risen by $750,000. The entire Commons Park project is projected to cost between $8 million and $12 million.

"Why should we spend $600,000 when we have to downsize our project?" Lund asked. "They do not appreciate what we are trying to do at the 11th hour. It's unfair to say we are not listening to the community. That is a very false statement."

Lund said the Commons Park project needs to go out for bid this year so the project can start on schedule in 2025, meaning final decisions have to be made soon.

Karsten said he's hopeful the city will see the value in retaining baseball fields at Commons Park or fully foot the bill to upgrade school fields.

"It (baseball) was something dying in popularity a few years ago, but it's now on the rebound, and kids are excited about playing," Karsten said. "Fridley is not a hockey town, but we'd have more rinks than baseball fields. There is a great need for them."