2017-03-30 / Front Page

Nonprofit reclaims effort to restore OOB Ballpark

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The Old Orchard Beach Ballpark may have scored a homerun now that nonprofit Friends of the Ballpark received support from the town council after it passed a resolution last week.

The council voted 3-0 to pass the resolution, with Councilor Michael Tousignant and Vice Chairman Shawn O’Neill absent.

The resolution read, “Town Council acknowledges its wholehearted support for continued restoration of Ballpark Facility and for community and recreational use of the property.”

“I’d like to make a motion to formally accept the resolution as read and totally accept the challenge to bring the ballpark to what it should be and what it could be,” said Councilor Jay Kelly, preceding the vote.

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) spoke before the town council about the importance of The Ballpark and the nonprofit.

“(The Friends of the Ballpark’s) mission is a very important one: To promote increased community use of the municipally owned ballpark through educational, cultural and athletic activities and events and to ensure long term sustainability through youth and family focused development projects,” Chenette said. “More specifically, our immediate goal is to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the structural restoration of The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. While this is a big undertaking, I know we have to preserve and expand the opportunities we have to encourage outdoor and recreational activities – opportunities to bring young people and families across multiple generations together beyond the barrier of simply a technological device.”

Chenette said as vice president of the nonprofit, he will work with The Ballpark Commission, the town, the board and residents to achieve its mission.

Friends of The Ballpark was formed around November or December of last year, Chenette said, and it became a legally recognized nonprofit this month. Between its meetings in early winter and becoming legally recognized, the nonprofit had been meeting for months to get paperwork in order.

Board members include William Plante, Don Pilon, Chenette as vice chairman, Stephanie Moutsatsos as secretary and Doc Hammond as treasurer. Friends of the Ballpark does not have a chairman yet, Chenette said.

“Hopefully as folks sign up to volunteer, someone with a development, fundraising or nonprofit background would step up to serve in that role,” he said.

According to an Oct. 19, 2016 presentation before the town council, The Ballpark had been the subject of concern in Old Orchard Beach since at least 2008. By that time, the town had placed a referendum on the ballot twice to sell the property, and both times residents voted to keep it. The state of The Ballpark had been withered, with the field consumed by trees and low-lying shrubs. The stands were considered to be beyond repair. Graffiti was found all over the property, the clubhouse was damaged, skyboxes were tarnished and the parking lot was regarded as a dumping ground.

By 2009, work by volunteers had been completed and The Ballpark was almost completely revitalized, with work continuing through 2010 until it was fully brought back to life.

Ballpark Operations Manager Guy Fontaine said Friends of the Ballpark was formed in winter 2016 because many people wanted to restore it and create a vision for its future.

He said The Ballpark is in need of about $250,000 in repairs, but the commission doesn’t want to rely on town money and instead seek donations.

The town provides funding for day-to-day operational costs, Chenette said, but not for long-term structural funds. All revenue generated on an annual basis goes to regular maintenance, upkeep and staffing. The Friends of The Ballpark is tasked with long-term sustainability of The Ballpark from a structural standpoint.

“How do we envision (the) ballpark 10 or 20 years from now? It’s not just a ballpark; its about concerts, community space, increasing engagement for families and young kids,” Chenette said. “(Friends of The Ballpark) is tasked with raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for structural renovations and restoration. Subsequently from there, we will be rethinking long-term use. Phase 1 focuses on restoration from a structural standpoint. Phase 2 is fun stuff – having a community-based conversation about what they want The Ballpark to be. It could be multi-use space for farmers markets, increased athletic activities” and concerts, he said.

Committee members hope the group’s nonprofit status will encourage more donations to the effort because of a donor’s ability to write off donations on their taxes. Donations will be used for the Friends’ structural capital improvement fundraising campaign.

Chenette said the nonprofit plans to raise money by identifying key stakeholders. These could be local banks or regional or state businesses that have a compelling interest in seeing the long-term success and longevity of The Ballpark.

“We’re open to suggestions,” he said. “We’ll be connecting to folks who want to be involved.”

Woodward and Curran, an engineering firm with an office in Portland, conducted a study two years ago that highlighted $250,000 worth of necessary repairs to The Ballpark.

James Sturgis, a senior structural engineer at the firm, said his report concluded that grandstand structures were in fair condition, but there were maintenance and repair issues that should receive prompt attention, according to an Oct. 27, 2016 article in The Courier.

The most high-priority problem was cracking and eroding of concrete within The Ballpark structure, according to the article. Repairs would prevent further damage. Moisture was also a problem and additional costs associated with The Ballpark would be to monitor damage on an annual basis. Fontaine said seats are becoming brittle and lighting repairs are needed.

Chenette said although the committee is composed of five board members, it is seeking more. He said the committee will meet once a month, though where and when isn’t yet established, and he encourages people to reach out on the Old Orchard Beach Ballpark Facebook page, visit their website at www.FriendsOfTheBallpark.com or contact him via phone or email.

He also extolled the role of The Ballpark.“Our ballpark is really a gem,” he said. “When people discover what we have in our own backyard, they light up with vivid recounts of memories past. This is much more than just a ballpark; it’s a connector to our community’s dynamic history and a bridge (of) the future as a solid economic driver.”

Return to top