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.
Great concept in that these spaces can be upgraded for more and better use as well as including populations that may not have been able to take advantage before. I really hope, though, that there will still be free open space for just unstructured running around. That was amazingly wonderful for my daughter and granddaughters as youngsters. I would hate to see there no longer having that option.
Warm memories of summer nights watching EG Townies.at baseball field. At that time just below school on east side. Players were mostly WWI vets…. My dad was a pitcher and had been recruited to pitch for the Naval War college during the war. No TV. Just a nice lazy evening laying on the bank and watching.
Was there any consideration to adding a SPLASH PARK, somewhat like North Kingstown-Wilson Park has developed? I think many families in EG would benefit from a safe family gathering place like this. Your thoughts?
Good question, Sherry. I will check with Andy Wade. I love the idea of a splash park!
Thanks Elizabeth & Merry Christmas to you , your family & EGNews🎄⛄
I’d be very interested in knowing from Mr Wade just how he envisions the girls softball league coexistence with mens softball league. As far as I can determine the mens league has played on that field Monday- Thursday nights every week starting after Mother’s Day. Not sure how that helps the girls softball league? I’d also be interested in knowing if the plan includes keeping the grass infield which is a unique feature on any softball field.
I didn’t put this in the story, but I believe the plan is to skin the infield…
providing 2 new dedicated Pickleball Courts are a great idea. But 4 Courts would have been more realistic as PickleBall is catching on like wild fire. It allows the Elderly and physically limited individuals the source for regular strenuous daily exercise within their limits. While at the same time, provides for young vigorous Players to excel. Because we will always need to separate the levels of Players. Thus the need for 4 Courts.
I am all for girls having the same level of facilities as boys – that’s great. However, be careful when comparing public facilities to private ones. Isn’t Cragan privately owned, and not public land?
Also, hidden in here is sad statement regarding EG high facilities. For the most part, they are average at best. According to this article , our girls softball field is not adequate to host youth softball ?? That’s terrible. If that’s the case, how about we fix up the HS softball field to meet the standards for youth sports!!