Ball players and spectators at Kiwanis Park in Ellicott City will find an improved park this summer with extra parking, new benches, an expanded concession area and a pavilion, thanks to the efforts of the Howard County Youth Program.

The independent, non-profit sports organization is making $50,000 to $60,000 worth of improvements to the park for little league baseball and softball -- mostly through volunteer labor -- as part of a special agreement with the county, said HCYP baseball commissioner Bob Smardon.

The county bought the 14-field park for $700,000 from the KiwanisClub in September at the urging of youth program officials. HCYP supports about 2,200 youngsters on 125 teams.

But county officials stipulated that the HCYP would have to upgrade the park to county specifications. The county is supplying some labor for park improvements, but most of the work is being done by 115 HCYP volunteers.

"It hasalways been the best facility in terms of the grounds and fields," Smardon said. "What we're trying to do is take the supporting infrastructure such as the concession stands, the equipment shed and the parking and make those things as good as the fields.

"As far as the kids are concerned, what they have for playing baseball has always beenthe best," he said. "Now, we are trying to accommodate the parents alittle more. We want to give them a place to park and a place to eat."

The youth program will lease the park from the county in the spring, and will be responsible for maintaining the fields and making all improvements required by the county. HCYP is the only organizationallowed to use the field.

Through the efforts of volunteers and contributors, HCYP will invest only about $25,000 in the project, Smardon said.

Corporate donations and fund-raisers will go toward the project, and none of the money from the club's annual registration fee will have to be used, Smardon said.

The organization is sponsoring a Jan. 25 dance at the Turf Valley Country Club which it hopes will raise $10,000 toward the project.

The improvements are expected to be finished in late March.

The biggest improvements include upgraded parking and renovation of the concession stand and the additionof a pavilion that will seat approximately 100 people.

The organization is also is adding crosswalks and more handicap parking as required by the county. There will be about 100 additional parking spaceswhen the project is finished.

The club also is renovating the park's equipment shed, installing new scoreboards, and getting new player and spectator benches. And a training area, featuring a TV, VCR anda supply of training films, will be added to a conference room in the complex.

This month, club members are painting, installing new floors and ceilings in the equipment shed and concession stand. Last fall, the organization installed new chain-link outfield fences.

County officials have been meeting with club representatives regularly since last summer to work on details of the project.

Youth programmembers are working seven days a week on the project, spending four hours at the park Mondays through Fridays and eight hours there on Saturdays and Sundays.

"The 90 managers usually show up in March andleave in July for baseball," Smardon said. "But they are working year-round now. And this has never been done before."

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