After six months of back and forth with FEMA and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Kokomo’s Municipal Stadium project appears to have cleared all of its hurdles.
FEMA and IDHS announced Friday that issues with the construction project have been brought into compliance with applicable federal laws and regulations, less than 27 hours before the Kokomo Jackrabbits were scheduled to play their first home game in the stadium.
"The City of Kokomo has stated for the last 10 months that a stadium would be built, and that the Kokomo Jackrabbits would be playing baseball in May 2015,” City attorney Beth A. Garrison said. “Despite efforts by some to halt construction, the stadium is really coming together, opening day is [Saturday], and about 3,500 people will be in attendance. The City couldn’t be more excited!”
In a press release Friday, IDHS explained the majority of issues have been resolved with the eight restricted parcels which have been in question since late 2014, adding that any remaining issues have a “credible remediation plan.” IDHS also said monitoring of the site will continue.
“I am very pleased the situation could be resolved,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement. “I commend the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for working together in good faith.”
A number of changes had to be made to the parcels in question in order for IDHS to deem the project in compliance, and although IDHS said Kokomo complied with the majority of its directions, those changes have significantly slowed the progress of the construction.
As a result, some parts of the stadium, like the concession areas, will not be ready for Saturday’s opener. Vendors will serve patrons concessions for the first home stand.
“This has been a long and avoidable situation," said IDHS Executive Director David Kane. “This is a reminder for other local governments that pre-approval for building and other changes on deed-protected properties purchased with federal mitigation funding is necessary to successfully own or manage them. If pre-approval is not secured, there can be expensive, time-consuming complications.” Eight parcels that are specified in City of Kokomo baseball stadium or peripheral plans were hazard mitigation properties that were acquired through FEMA-administered grant funding.”
After it determined in late 2014 that the parcels, with were purchased with the help of federal funds, were not in compliance with the agreeable usage terms, FEMA suspended all of the state’s hazard mitigation grant funds, leaving $6.1 million in unapproved projects in limbo in late February.
After an appeal by IDHS, FEMA reinstated the state’s ability to access the hazard mitigation grant funds on May 8.
The Jackrabbits host Danville Saturday night in the first home game for the Prospect League expansion club. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
According to the seating chart on the Jackrabbits’ ticketing website, only a handful of stadium seat tickets remained as of 5:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are also available for lawn seating. Construction crews were able to lay sod on those areas Thursday and Friday.
The scoreboard and protective netting were being put into place Friday afternoon.