Above: The proposal for Eldredge Field, including a fitness pathway around the perimeter of the field.
Town vies for 2 grants to transform local fields
In what could be the biggest changes to Eldredge and Academy fields in decades, the town Community Services Department is submitting grant applications totalling $500,000 to provide a better home field for girls softball, a fitness trail, and re-oriented basketball courts at Eldredge, and two new pickleball courts at Academy Field.
The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has made available $4 million in matching grants to help local municipalities and Native American tribes acquire, develop, or renovate outdoor recreational facilities in their communities. The town would be required to come up with a 25 percent match for each project. The Eldredge grant application seeks $400,000, so the town would need to contribute $100,000 either in dollars or in-kind services (for instance, the use of town labor and equipment). The Academy grant application is looking for $100,000, which would require a $25,000 local match.
The largest part of the Eldredge grant would provide for an ADA accessible outdoor fitness trail that would make it possible to walk the perimeter of the field (see photo above). To make room for the trail, Community Services Director Andy Wade is proposing to shift the placement of the ball field slightly to the north and west. The idea behind making it a regulation softball field is to create a field that is comparable to what Cragan field provides for boys Little League. Right now, the home field for girls softball is at the high school. Unlike at Cragan, the EGHS field has no lights, no scoreboard, no concessions, limited spectator seating, and a single port-a-potty. Eldredge already has lights, bathrooms, a concession stand, and more seats for spectators. Moving the field west a bit would shift the action to in front of the stadium seating along First Avenue.
According to Wade, the men’s softball league would still be able to use the field. During the Little League season, a temporary fence could be installed much like the one used at the baseball field at Academy. That would also allow for the popular fall flag football games to continue to be played at Eldredge.
Meanwhile, the basketball courts on the Cliff Street side of the field have always been at the wrong orientation – in the afternoon, one team is always shooting into the sun. Reorienting the courts north-south would eliminate that issue. The plan also includes installation of a park pavilion for program space, school functions and general use, near Cliff Street.
The plan for Academy Field would be to use the open grassy area between the basketball courts and Spring Street as the site for two new pickleball courts (see photo below). That’s because of the growing popularity of pickleball – a cross between tennis, table tennis, and badminton. Right now, pickleball players set up their nets on the basketball courts when they want to play. The new courts would be dedicated to pickleball and the project includes adding a shade shelter and ADA access from the parking lot to the courts.
“The exact budgets for each project to be proposed have yet to be finalized,” said Wade via email. “I am currently working with our consultants on the project to reduce the project budget as much as possible. Currently it sits around $585,000 for the items presented at [the Nov. 22] meeting. This project proposed in the grant will be part of a larger master plan for the space that is currently being developed as part of our Community Services and Parks Master Plan that is being conducted by BL Companies.”
The Town Council voted unanimously to approve both applications at its Nov. 22 meeting. The applications are due Dec. 17 and the town should hear back in the spring.