JACKSON – A landmark playing field in Jackson is getting a significant facelift.
Dick “Sparky” Haller Field, the longtime home for the Jackson Ironmen, will sport a new look for the upcoming baseball season this spring.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do, and I took it a little further and got permission,” said Jackson head coach Josh McGraw. “The school has been accommodating with this. Mr. (Joe) Hemsley, Mr. (Phil) Howard, and Mr. (Pat) Stevens were extremely positive in wanting to see this done and trusting me to do it right.
“After getting over the depression of not having a season last spring, I sat and wondered how to make the program better, but it is hard to make it better when you are not allowed to be around the kids. Therefore, I started thinking about the renovation and started working at getting approval in June. Since we have started on October 1, it is going really well.”
Gone is the 24-foot fence, and a regular fence has been installed down the left-field line, making it easier for fans to watch a game.
A fence behind the backstop enclosed the field currently. A block wall and a new windscreen fence will replace it.
The field dimensions will change in various areas as well, including behind home play and in front of the dugouts.
“We are moving the field forward 23-feet. We made a new home plate, pitcher’s mound, and we moved the grass areas,” said McGraw. “We are creating a new baseball field, and we gained 23-feet of foul territory on each side. It also moves the foul lines farther away from the dugouts as well.”
One of the main reasons for doing this renovation is to create more room for the fans.
“It gets a little tight back there with the bleachers. But we tore down the old chain link backstop, and we are building a new backstop out of a block wall with a 30-foot net on top of it.”
There will also be sidewalks behind the backstop to create more room for the fans to sit.
McGraw said they will also make the dugouts more player-friendly with racks.
In the outfield, centerfield has been reduced from 375 feet to 352, while only eight feet have changed the left and right field.
“I don’t anticipate that changing the game at all,” said McGraw. “The positives that come with this is more room on the field and more space for the fans, which outweigh everything.”
The program is doing a fundraiser, selling engraved brick tiles, which will be placed on the back of the dugout to supplement the cost for the renovation project.
Jackson County Commissioner Paul Haller has helped get the renovations’ approval and has become a significant donor.
“His family has put a lot of heart and soul into the field, and he was one of the first people I called when I came up with the idea for this project,” McGraw said. “They respect any work that goes into making the field, which is named after his father, nicer.”
Haller said he and his family are honored and blessed to be part of the donorship’s renovation.
“On behalf of the Haller family, as far as myself (Paul Haller) and Dr. Marla Haller, and our boys have all played baseball here, and my father coached her for more than 25 years. He was also the first athletic director,” Haller said.
The renovation is also a way of honoring past players and coaches at Jackson.
“That is one of the reasons we wanted to do the brick fundraiser to be able to honor the players and coaches, who have been here by letting them put their names on this facility,” said McGraw. “This is not Jackson High School’s Field. This is a community field, and people are very proud when they drive by and see how nice the field is. 
The brick sales, which started a couple of weeks ago, can be purchased online at brickmarkersusa.com. The deadline to purchase a brick is December 4, 2020, and January 4, 2021.
The projected date for completion of the project is expected to be in December, according to McGraw.