The private nonprofit group that oversees youth baseball in New Canaan is talking with engineering and architectural firms in anticipation of a major capital project at Mead Park that recreation officials say hasn’t been done in 42 years.
New Canaan Baseball has offered to pay for the estimated $1 million re-grading of the two little league fields at Mead, and has set a target date for the starting the work next summer, according to the organization’s president.
“The critical path is ultimately finding one or two people that are going to be chiefs of the project,” Jim Higgins told the Park & Recreation Commission at its regular meeting Wednesday night, held in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center. “It is significant project. The board has a desire to do it. There is a unanimous desire on the board.”
Mellick and Gamble fields need to be leveled out and drainage systems must be installed in order for the facilities to rise to the level of little league fields in other towns, advocates for the project say.
Asked by Park & Rec Chair Sally Campbell for an update on the proposed capital upgrades, which were introduced in March, Higgins said the baseball board is “in the process of doing some research right now.”
“We are just starting to get a little more organized on our side, to be able to come back to you with a little more specificity on the scope of the project,” Higgins said. “My guess is some time between now and early spring we will probably come back and say, ‘Here is what we are thinking,’ with the goal of getting all the approvals done hopefully spring [or] early summer, and start construction in August” with an eye on planting grass in the fall.
New Canaan Baseball contributes regularly and substantially to ensure the baseball fields and facilities at Mead are as good as they can be—to the tune of about $35,000 this past year, Higgins said.
During the meeting, Higgins also requested permission to leave hanging through the winter the windscreens that line the fences of the little league fields at Mead. Though originally New Canaan Baseball had agreed to remove those screens in the winter when in April 2014 the commission approved their installation, the sweat and cost of taking them down proved more cumbersome than anticipated, and they remained up year-round, to the chagrin of Park & Rec. Earlier this year, when the organization requested permission to hang a similar windscreen on the large baseball field at Mead that’s used by the varsity team at NCHS, commissioners granted approval on condition that it come down at season’s end.
That will happen in about two weeks when the “fall ball” season ends, Recreation Director Steve Benko said.
The commission approved Higgins request to leave the windscreens up on the little league fields through the winter as a one-time move, asking that New Canaan Baseball return to Park & Rec with details on how much it would cost the organization to remove them at season’s end.