WINCHESTER — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Shenandoah University to alter its plans for renovating baseball and softball fields in Jim Barnett Park.

A joint statement released Friday morning by the university and the city of Winchester confirms the delay but provides few details:

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenandoah University has had to revisit a number of its capital projects. One of those projects is the baseball and softball field renovations in Jim Barnett Park. This project will still be moving forward, but some scheduling changes have resulted due to the pandemic. As such, the city of Winchester and the university have been working together to define a new timeline that will separate the renovation into a series of phases.”

In January, the City Council agreed to give Shenandoah University (SU) oversight of two ballfields in Jim Barnett Park in exchange for millions of dollars in improvements to four of the park’s baseball and softball diamonds.

According to the terms of the 40-year deal, SU will have management and scheduling rights for the park’s Bridgeforth and Rotary fields, which then become the home fields for the university’s baseball and softball teams. In return, SU will spend $4.5 million to fund improvements to the park’s Bridgeforth, Rotary, Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris baseball and softball fields.

Renovations to Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris will cost approximately $600,000. SU will front the first $350,000, then keep 100% of concession sales from Bridgeforth and Rotary until it recoups the remaining $250,000. Once that amount is collected, the university will then give 35% of all concessions to the city to make up for the revenue the park is losing by sacrificing its ability to rent Bridgeforth and Rotary to other users.

The improved Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris diamonds will become the official home fields for Handley High School’s baseball and softball teams, while Bridgeforth and Rotary will receive approximately $4 million in upgrades so they can meet NCAA tournament standards with renovated dugouts, better press boxes, artificial turf playing surfaces, batting cages, and new fencing, lights, seats and scoreboards.

All four fields will remain available to other park users, including Valley League baseball teams and the Winchester Baseball youth league, when they are not needed by SU or Handley.

Originally, SU planned to start work on Bodie Grim and Henkel Harris this spring, and Bridgeforth and Rotary in August. All work was expected to be finished no later than the end of 2025.

Now, it remains to be seen when the renovations will begin and end.

According to Friday morning’s statement, “More information will be forthcoming when the timeline has been finalized.”

This is the university’s second setback in less than a week. On Tuesday, City Council decided not to pursue state funding for a $3 million pedestrian bridge that would have linked SU’s main campus to the front of the former Clarion Inn and Conference Center at 711 Millwood Ave., which the university is leasing for the next three years to use for student housing and food services.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com