The Strong Center at the Surf Club organization has raised almost $1 million in cash, grants, in-kind donations, and pledges so far, Duo Dickinson reported at the Board of Selectmen meeting earlier this week.
Dickinson, attending the meeting with fellow Strong Center at the Surf Club board member Larry Ciotti, was there to provide the board with information about the organization’s progress so far and to ascertain the town’s commitment and willingness to participate in the project.
The Strong Center at the Surf Club organization is raising money and support to refurbish the badly worn-out field, and also to transform it into a venue that could showcase a wide range of sports and cultural events. Members of the organization envision having a multi-purpose turf field and athletic park with two field houses, a concession stand and entry plaza where now there is only battered grass, a tiny building, and rickety bleachers.
What would remain consistent, of course, is the location, at the Surf Club right on Long Island Sound, although the fields themselves might be reoriented to make them more useful to a wider range of sports and activities, according to the current proposal from the Strong Center at the Surf Club organization.
Fund set up by Harold C. Strong could provide some financial support
A preliminary budget for the project, prepared by the Strong Center at the Surf Club organization, is $2.5 million, including $500,000 for a turf field, $500,000 for turf prep and subsurface, $200,000 for new field lighting, $400,000 for new and renovated bleachers, $700,000 for buildings and renovations, and $200,000 for ancillary and contingency.
The selectmen indicated a willingness to put both money and resources behind the project. The exact amount was not specified, but members of the board said it was likely that a fund created specifically for the maintenance of Strong Field could be used for the project.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said a fund was set up by Harold C. Strong in the early 1990s to provide for maintenance, care, and improvement to Strong Field, subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance. “We do have a reasonable sized fund and if we saw fit some portion of it could be used for the Strong Field improvement project,” he said. “It is worth starting a discussion.”
Town’s Long Term Capital Projects Review Committee could be another source of funds
Selectmen William Gladstone and Noreen Kokoruda said the town’s Long Term Capital Projects Review Committee (LoCap) meet recently and discussed the possibility of getting funding for the Strong project from a variety of sources.
“Redoing the field and bleachers are both on LoCAP’s list and both are safety issues,” she said. “Kids are getting injured on the field.”
Town Engineer and Public Works Director Michael Ott said the bleachers appear to be structurally safe, but that they need improvements to the railings and some of the openings need to be made smaller.
Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) could be additional source of funding
McPherson said, in addition to the Strong Fund, the town might want to consider looking into a grant from the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). “We could apply but we [the town] would have to put up matching funds,” he said, adding that the Strong Fund could serve as the source of the matching funds.
Dickinson also told the Board of Selectmen that the Strong Center at the Surf Club organization is now, officially, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, which should help with the fundraising process.
Both he and Ciotti said they were pleased with the pace of donations and commitments, particularly given recent difficult economic times.
Positive response to requests for donations
“We have had a very positive response, especially in this economic climate,” Ciotti said. One advantage of doing the project soon, he said, is that the economic downturn has resulted in lower construction costs.
In addition to discussing options for monetary support, including the Strong Fund, LoCap funds, and the possibility of applying for a STEAP grant, the selectmen also authorized Ott to evaluate the scope of his involvement in the project and report back to the board on that.
Dickinson and Ciotti said they appreciate the board’s willingness to participate in the project. He said having the town officially on board will make it easier to raise additional money for the project. Selectman Gladstone agreed.
Combined efforts of town and Strong Center at the Surf Club organization will make project “even better”
“Sooner or later we’re going to have to spend money at the field,” Gladstone said. “We’re thrilled we can work with you to make it even better.”
In a document provided to the Board of Selectmen by Dickinson and Ciotti, the Strong Center at the Surf Club organization made the following points about the proposed project:
- The existing bleachers and light stanchions can be salvaged and reused.
- The town already has experience creating and maintaining turf fields because there is one at the high school
- Using synthetic fields and reorienting them would allow for a multi-sport use facility that could be available for football, soccer, lacrosse, and adult softball, among other sports for three full seasons
- Arts activities, such as concerts, Shakespeare, band convocations, could be accommodated by the new field
If $1.75 million is raised by Sept. 1 2011, Phase I of the project could be initiated, according to the document provided to the Board of Selectmen. The town would be responsible for full site engineering, including “determination of actual wetlands boundaries, preliminary negotiations with the State on coastal aspects, and a full review of the permitting sequencing for the project.”
Several other organizations in town also would be involved at that point, according to the document, including the Advisory Council on Community Appearances, Inland Wetlands, Planning and Zoning, and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Hearings with these various organizations could take between three and five months, according to the estimate in the document.