Above: At Academy now, if you want to play pickleball you need to set up the net each time. The DEM grant will provide $100,000 for two dedicated pickleball courts, an accessible path and a shade structure.
In the plans, 2 pickleball courts at Academy, girls softball & walking path at Eldredge
The Town of East Greenwich is getting $500,000 in state grants for improvement projects at Eldredge and Academy fields, the state Department of Environmental Management announced last week – $400,000 for Eldredge and $100,000 for Academy.
East Greenwich is among 13 Rhode Island communities on the receiving end of a total of $4.1 million in DEM outdoor recreation grants. As part of the award, the town is required to provide a 20 percent match, so $25,000 for Academy and $100,000 for Eldredge. Community Services Director Andy Wade said the town has that money set aside.
“This is exciting news for our town,” Wade said Thursday. He had been cautiously optimistic that the town would get one of the grants, the smaller one for Academy. Getting both was a welcome surprise. “We are very happy to hear that both projects were awarded funds by the state.”
Wade is chair of DEM’s reviewing committee; he said committee members who represent a town under consideration are not allowed to sit in on those grant discussions.
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. 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 there 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 work at Eldredge would be the most significant changes in decades. 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 field would become a regulation softball field in an effort 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 come fall.
The projects must be completed within two years. The next step is to have formal plans drawn up. “We will get full designs, go out to bid and coordinate with the school department [on the work at Eldredge], Wade told the Town Council Monday night.
Among the other projects receiving DEM grants are playgrounds, a splash park, and a dog park. You can read about all the projects HERE.