BERKELEY -- After at least 15 years of planning, Berkeley High School finally has its own regulation baseball field, which opened Saturday with a $4.5 million price tag.
Tim Moellering Field, named after a Berkeley High School baseball coach and history teacher who died of cancer in early 2011, includes a basketball court and separate grass sports field.
The piece of land takes up a city block at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Derby Street. Derby Street now has a curve in it to allow a little more room in the parcel to accommodate a regulation baseball field.
"It's so neat to see the look on the kids' faces when they see it for the first time," said Berkeley High varsity baseball coach Matt Bremer, who was using the batting cage with a couple of hitters for the first time Monday. "And it's such a step up from our previous field."
The Berkeley High teams for years had to use a baseball diamond at San Pablo Park, and they had to set up and break down their own outfield fence for each game. The new field has a permanent outfield fence, two bullpens for pitchers to warm up, a batting cage, which the team has never had before, and a scoreboard that can be controlled using a wireless computer connection.
In addition to providing a space for baseball players, students at Berkeley Technology Academy across the street now have a place to play basketball.
John Fike, a teacher at the school who grew up in Berkeley playing baseball with Moellering, said the field is a "fitting tribute to someone who gave so much to the community."
"I love that I was able to watch the field get built from my classroom window," Fike said.
While the field was paid for with a bond measure footed by taxpayers, the public will have to wait to use it.
School district officials say they are waiting to see how much maintenance it requires from all the students playing on both fields before they consider taking the locks off the gates. That process could take a year.
"We need to make smart choices about how much it gets used, so it doesn't get abused," Bremer said. "We just don't yet know how much damage it can take and what kind of maintenance it will need."
Contact Doug Oakley at 510-843-1408. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley.