Officials Postpone Planned Overhaul of Little League Fields at Mead One Year Due To High Cost Estimates


A widely anticipated plan to improve the little league baseball fields at Mead Park is being pushed back one year after those overseeing the project received higher-than-anticipated cost estimates, officials said Wednesday night.

Unveiled last year, the project to create larger dimensions at Mellick and Gamble Fields and to install new fences, light poles, bleacher areas and a scoreboard originally had been pegged at about $950,000 and was to start this fall.

Recently, however, a cost-estimate came back about $600,000 higher than that, according to Scott Werneburg, president of New Canaan Baseball, and officials are not willing to rush into a project now without further pricing out of materials as well as total confidence that it could be wrapped up by spring.

“The prudent course of action was not wanting to risk onset of winter and not being able to compete our fields and risk losing our spring season,” he told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting, held at Town Hall.

“And the smart course of action is to take our time, get through this process and hopefully have our selected contractor this fall and be able to order early and plan everything to go to construction in August next year after the baseball season has ended.”

The re-engineered project will accomplish many of the big-ticket items originally imagined, he said: turf on the infields, increased playability, improved drainage and new backstops, scoreboard and fencing.

However, a plan to re-orient Gamble Field so that home plate no longer backs up to a swampy area to the south will not be possible, he said.

The specific high costs—some 80 percent of the $600,000 overrun—have mostly do to with a code issue connected to lighting, Werneberg said.

“Because we were scraping and effectively reorienting some of fields and by code, when you try to move one of the existing light poles, there is a whole new standard that you must adhere to that is required,” he said. “And so our lighting bill of that $600,000 was $480,000, which of course we expected to be a small, small fraction of that. So that drove us to reengineer the project and that is what we are working on now.”

The lighting in place now is “completely adequate” for Mellick and Gamble Fields, he said.

In April, the Board of Finance and Town Council voted to commit $500,000 in bonding for the fields project at Mead, with New Canaan Baseball was to contribute $450,000 as well as whatever was needed for cost overruns.

That same partnership will hold for the deferred project next year, and Werneburg said New Canaan Baseball has its share of the funding in hand now and will continue to fundraise actively in the interim. In addition to the lighting, Werneburg said it looks like New Canaan Baseball can find savings in scrapping a plan to rebuild the dirt road that runs back of the fields ($35,000) and can save some money in an estimated $120,000 of concrete expenses by using asphalt selectively.

Councilmen asked how many bids came in for the project (two), whether the cost estimates include a contingency fee (no but that can be bolted onto the numbers now) and who made the decision to postpone the project (New Canaan Baseball has been in continuous consultation with Department of Public Works Director Tiger Mann, Parks Superintendent John Howe and Recreation Director Steve Benko).

Councilman Kathleen Corbet thanked Werneburg for the update and said that although it’s disappointing to not get into the ground straightaway, “you actually have described a picture-perfect way in which things need to be done.”

10 thoughts on “Officials Postpone Planned Overhaul of Little League Fields at Mead One Year Due To High Cost Estimates

  1. I think that some thought should be given to upgrading the high school baseball and softball fields. To think that 12 year olds will be playing on higher quality fields than the high school kids is perplexing. Who at the town prioritizes these projects? Or is it done on the basis of who screams the loudest? Currently the high school baseball team plays on a field with trees in the outfield. The softball field is like playing on brick. If that isn’t an embarrassment I don’t know what is. So the high school Lacrosse, Track and Football teams all get new fields but baseball and softball get what…. nothing? Are they just the ugly stepchildren to the other more “popular” sports. I would like an explanation from the town as to why the exclusion? I think upgrading the kids fields is a great idea, don’t get me wrong. But where are the towns priorities? And to upgrade all of the high school fields but one seems very unsportsman like to me.

    • The High School track has been kicked along for years with short term repairs and patches. I believe it was to the point of being unsafe and not even usable for meets. I know of several kids injured from depressions / uneven surfaces. It is a sport that allows hundreds of high school kids to participate with less funding than other sports.

  2. Kudos to New Canaan Baseball for making a responsible decision in postponing their Mead fields project. I hope that the town approves the additional funds needed and takes it one step further to provide necessary funds to redo the girls softball fields at Waveny. If there were ever fields in need of repair it’s those.


  4. It’s important to note that the youth fields project is a public/private partnership where approximately half of the funding is coming from private sources. The youth fields are the baseball home to approximately 400 kids who play on the fields from April to October every year. The fields get a lot of use and have not had any significant investment (outside of lighting) in decades. There are significant safety and playability issues. The use of artificial turf on the infield portion (the part that gets the most amount of wear) of the fields will actually reduce the maintenance costs of the fields to the point where the use of turf pays for itself.
    The project has been thoroughly reviewed, has received the necessary approvals by all of the applicable town committees, is funded and ready to go. The delay in starting construction is a prudent one; designed to provide additional time to review bids and to ensure that there will be no disruption to the Spring baseball season. New Canaan is blessed with a beautiful Mead Park. The new youth baseball fields will accentuate that beauty and heighten the value of that asset to the entire town.

  5. I think you are missing the point. Most people would agree that all fields need to be updated, and that is not the issue. Rather, there is an uproar in the community because of how the fields project was managed – there is a significant lack of trust among many constituents. Even Councilman John Engel stipulated with his vote the need for an audit and ethics review. How often does that happen? Not to minimize the issue, but I think the fields project received more attention than it would have ordinarily because many voters are fed up with how the town is managed. As an example, who decided not to include the High School Baseball and Softball fields with the field improvement project?

      • I don’t believe that is correct. To my understanding, from a monetary standpoint all 3 projects were grouped together when seeking financial approval from town. Also the Fields Building sub-committee appointed by Board of Finance has over-site responsibility for all 3 projects. No doubt the way this has gone that New Canaan Baseball wishes that it were left as a stand alone.

        • Please check the minutes of the town meetings and you will see that this is a separate project and the funding was approved separately.

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