In a recent conversation, GNG Little League (GNGLL) president Nate Stone provided an update about the effort to develop ballfields in New Gloucester. The group had taken a pause, after push back from community members about their Intervale Fields complex plan, to revisit the possibility of developing a three-field complex on land they own on Bennett Road. The GNGLL board has affirmed their effort to continue to explore the viability of the Bennett Road location, which will require extensive fill to create a level site. Two fields at Intervale would be a fall-back plan if Bennett proves unworkable. Members of the Save Our Intervale group have volunteered to work with the Little League sub-committee responsible for the project.
“Bennett would make everyone happy,” explained Stone. But according to an engineering estimate, the site would require about $1.2 million in fill, before any facilities were developed. Since that estimate, a company that does large construction projects as dumped 20-30 tons of clean fill there, reducing the projected cost. Hopefully, they will continue to dump fill there. “The ideal would be to reclaim the site, and it may be possible to find grants and fundraise the money needed.” Stone mentioned that there is some confusion about whether or not the Bennett property has been sold. It has not been, but the company that is providing fill would purchase it if Bennett Road plans do not pan out.
The ultimate goal is to develop a safe, handicapped accessible multi-field facility that works for families and ensures that programs can continue for local kids. GNGLL uses many fields in the area, but owns only two (Penney Road and Intervale). “We spend a lot of time maintaining relationships with the organizations that own the fields, from local schools to St. Gregory’s in Gray. Everything is on a handshake-basis,” explained Stone. The Little League has invested in improvements to these sites, without any guarantee that they’ll be able to continue using them. When a property on which one Gray field is located was recently sold, the GNGLL was uncertain whether or not the new owners would allow continued use. Fortunately, they’ll be able to continue to use the field, on which they had spent $35,000 for improvements… for now. GNGLL’s goal is to own three safe, modern, accessible fields at Bennett, and two others between Intervale and Gray.
Financial viability is a complex dilemma, and investing in properties that they don’t own is not sustainable. GNGLL has rented the Intervale field to tenants such as Maine Thunder, a for-profit “talent development” organization that plays games as long as possible into the fall. Decisions about how much time is available to rent are made after local players have registered for the season. Covid has made this process tricky. Only 100 GNG kids signed up by March this year, and GNGLL committed to tenants for much of the season. Then, there were 350 kids signed up as of May 1. GNGLL’s season runs from mid to late April through the end of the school year in June.
“Our goal,” says Stone, “is to do something that benefits the community.