GONZALES — Construction will begin soon on a new baseball field for children of all abilities, after more than $700,000 poured in to fund the effort launched last year by Ascension Parish volunteers.

Scheduled to begin May 15, the first phase of the project, expected to take about three months, will involve building the field and dugouts on a site that's currently a T-ball field in Gonzales.

Current youth teams in the parish will continue to use the new field, once it's completed, which will be more accessible for all players and allow the city to offer a new team for children with disabilities, said Erica Page a volunteer with the Team of Dreams, the group organizing the project.

The field will feature wide sidewalk approaches, a rubberized playing surface and restroom facilities that will be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"This is going to be a state-of-the art field when it's built," said Lance Kohan, director of recreation for Gonzales, which maintains the park.

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, created by the family of the Baltimore Orioles legend, will be bringing in Sports Fields Inc., of Canton, Georgia, to build the field.

The nonprofit foundation has worked with the Georgia company to build more than 20 such fields across the country. The foundation also contributed $150,000 toward the building of the new field.

Another major donation, of $350,000 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, helped the first phase of construction begin, said volunteers with Leadership Ascension, a program sponsored by the Ascension Chamber of Commerce.

Each year, Leadership Ascension invites teams of volunteers to create and carry out projects to benefit the community. 

"Every child dreams of being part of a team. Our team has stayed focused on our vision to make that a reality for Ascension Parish,” Page said. "We wouldn’t be able to make this happen without our generous sponsors and donors."

The first step of the project will be the demolition, beginning April 24, of the current park's fence, restrooms and concession stand. The work is being donated by a local business.   

The property is owned by the Ascension Parish government, which has donated $50,000 toward the new baseball field.

The Port Vincent firm of Quality Engineering and Surveying has donated the design of the field and restroom facility.

Financial and in-kind donations have come from business, industry and residents, Page said. 

Phase 2 of the project will involve completing the field with construction of a concessions building, restrooms, covered bleachers, grand entryway and scoreboard. 

When it's time for the ribbon cutting, one of those expected to be on hand will be Cal "Iron Man" Ripken Jr., who followed his father into baseball and played 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as one of only 10 players to get 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. 

Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.