2016-10-27 / Front Page

Ballpark plan receives full support

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Members of The Ballpark Commission met with the town council to review problems with The Ballpark and to propose a plan for solutions.

The meeting was at a town council workshop on Oct. 18. Members of the council and members of the public showed complete support for the commission’s proposed plan to independently raise funds necessary to repair problems with the ballpark’s structures.

Last year the Commission requested a structural survey of The Ballpark’s facilities, which was done in November by Woodard & Curran, an engineering firm with an office in Portland, and for which the town paid a fee of around $4,500. The findings of that survey were presented at the beginning of the meeting by James Sturgis, a senior structural engineer at the firm.

“My general findings were that the grandstand structures are found to be in fair condition,” Sturgis said. “However, there are several maintenance and repair issues that I’m recommending should receive prompt attention. If not addressed in a timely manner, then these problems could worsen over time.”

The most frequent high-priority problem presented by Sturgis was cracking and eroding of concrete within the structures in The Ballpark. He focused on repairs that would prevent further damage.

“Moisture is really the enemy here,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis presented recommendations for the repairs, which frequently included sealing cracks or monitoring damage on an annual basis.

Sturgis also gave a rough cost opinion for the repairs, which suggested a total budget of $225,000. Sturgis cautioned that his opinion was not as authoritative as a repair contractor, and recommended that a repair contractor be contacted to confirm the cost opinion.

A slideshow presentation by The Ballpark Commission followed the presentation of survey results. That presentation highlighted the ballpark’s value – economic and non-economic – to the community, recognized The Ballpark’s problems, and offered a plan to address the repairs.

“The Commissioners fully and completely embrace the results of the Woodward and Curran study,” read Robin Dayton, a commission member, as a statement in the presentation. “The study offers a clear path to the next phase of development that furthers the potential use of the ballpark and provides an achievable goal.”

The commission’s statement then acknowledged the special effort that would be necessary to fix The Ballpark’s problems, and discussed a solution.

“We seriously considered simply asking council for the funds to achieve these new construction priorities,” Dayton read. “But that would not really follow our very basic premise of volunteerism and self-reliance.

“And, we also know that the council faces significant fiscal challenges in the months ahead. That is why the commission has chosen an alternate solution.” That solution, according to the commission’s statement, involves utilizing the ballpark’s citizens’ group, Friends of the Ballpark, Inc., a nonprofit organization.

“The Friends of the Ballpark will launch a structural capital improvement fundraising campaign in the amount of $250,000 to meet the prioritized list of requirements detailed in the Woodard and Curran study,” Dayton read.

The details of the plan that the commission provided to the council – which they emphasize is only preliminary – establish a timeline over the four quarters of 2017, with the kick-off expected for March. The campaign will focus on past and present facility uses. The information provided to the council also details the history of donations received for The Ballpark since 2008, in the form of donated labor and materials, which totals nearly $360,000.

The commission asked the council to play an important part.

“What we want from council is to become a champion for this capital fundraising campaign,” Dayton read. “Show your support for this effort by passing a council resolution showing appreciation for this historic project and endorsing The Ballpark’s continued development.”

After the presentations, a series of community members from Old Orchard Beach and surrounding towns spoke to show their support for the ballpark and for the plan.

For the councilors’ part, scrutiny was evident but there was nevertheless unanimous support.

“If there was anyone on this council to be viewed as anti-ballpark, it would be me, and I am absolutely not,” said Councilor Joseph Thornton. “What I am is extremely terrified of what’s coming to this town fiscally.”

“For three years I’ve said, at the end of every one of these meetings, ‘I just can’t throw my weight behind investing more taxpayer dollars,’” Thornton continued. “And I kept saying ‘there’s gotta be an outside way to think about this,’ and you found it, and it’s brilliant, and I support it 100 percent.”

Thornton’s comments drew applause.

Also discussed were ideas for the future, which received more criticism. Jerome Plant, chairman of the commission, brought up the possibility of further developing The Ballpark facility to make it more of a recreation center, such as can be seen in South Portland. A member of the community suggested that The Ballpark incorporate facilities for hospitality to accommodate teams who travel to use it.

“We have to stay on track,” Dayton said. “We all have these thoughts of the future in our head. But we want to make sure we fix the stadium so we can get there.”

Councilor Thornton agreed.

“What I get nervous about is that, at the end of this meeting, what’s gonna be remembered is that somebody brought up ‘let’s put in a swimming pool,’” Thornton said.

“It’s easy for me to support plans. It’s not easy for me to support ideas,” Thornton added later.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

Return to top