The new fields will be built atop six feet of dirt, sand, drainage pipes, and retention basins designed to put distance between cleats and that layer of clay, or "marl," that gives Evesham's central town its name: Marlton.
About two feet of clay sits under much of the central portion of the township. Mined in the 19th century as a fertilizer, it is now mostly an obstacle to drainage.
"We're bringing in a beach" to fix it, project manager Al Buciorelli joked Monday afternoon, shortly before Mayor Randy Brown, members of the town council, and other elected officials jabbed shovels and threw ceremonial dirt at the foot of the new fields, which will sit behind Town Hall.
"This is one of the best days this town has ever seen," Brown said. He said the new fields had been one of his goals since he was first elected in 2007 and predicted they would serve as a "center of community life . . . for 40 or 50 years."
"We want [residents] to stay here, retire here, and your kids to stay here, too," he said.
More than 1,700 township residents play baseball or softball between March and November, according to officials.
But the ball fields at Memorial Field, built in 1997 just inches above the marl layer, drain so poorly that "games would be canceled for days after a heavy rain," Township Manager William Cromie said. "With these, you'll be able to start playing as soon as the rain stops."
Brown said that he hopes the project will come in under budget and that he expects the town will offset some of the construction costs by renting the fields for league play and tournaments, and by selling advertising.
Buciorelli, of American Athletics in Vincentown, cautioned that his crew faced a tough schedule building in the winter but predicted the result would be "the nicest baseball fields you've ever seen."
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