Playing surface sinkholes hit Dickey-Stephens Park over the weekend, requiring the Arkansas Travelers (Class AA; Texas League) groundscrew to make extensive repairs to keep the field playable.
The issue of sinkholes is not at a new one at Dickey-Stephens Park, the riverfront ballpark in North Little Rock that opened for the Travelers in 2007. Flooding from the Arkansas River can be a factor in the appearance of sinkholes and, with the Travelers also dealing with the effects of floodwaters in the parking lot and an entrance way, sinkholes formed in the outfield during the team’s home series against the Tulsa Drillers over the weekend.
The sinkholes were persistent enough to require action from the team’s grounds crew on both Friday and Saturday, with one repair job made during a 23-minute delay to the action in the eighth inning on Friday. Despite the issues, the Travelers and Drillers were able to complete both games. More from the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
That Tulsa beat Arkansas for the second consecutive night — 4-2 on Saturday after rallying to win 6-5 on Friday — was secondary to the work done by ballpark Superintendent Greg Johnston and his grounds crew to keep the field in playing shape, and the communication between Travs personnel and the managers of both teams.
It was that communication that led to two field-maintenance delays totaling 68 minutes — 23 minutes in the eighth inning on Friday night, and 45 minutes before the start of Saturday’s game, witnessed by an announced crowd of 7,651 — to repair sinkholes.
Each time, Travs Manager Mitch Canham and Tulsa Manager Scott Hennessey got together and watched intently as the grounds crew did what needed to be done to fill the holes with dirt and Donofill.
Saturday, they actually stripped fresh sod off a soft spot in right-center field after players repeatedly ran over the ground.
As noted, sinkholes have been an issue at the ballpark in the past. Sinkholes formed on the playing field in the months leading up to the 2016 season, prompting North Little Rock officials to invest in repairs to the ballpark that ultimately put the surface back into working order before the season began. The issue had not resurfaced until now, coming amidst a historic cresting of the Arkansas River. However, the exact cause of the most recent sinkholes has not been determined.