August 18, 2019

Rockland Recreation supporters launch fundraiser

ROCKLAND – It’s game time for Rockland Recreation supporters.

The goal: to score $4.3 million for a new sports complex.

A year ago, the recreation advisory committee pitched the idea of a new recreation center and sports fields to city councilors. Last week, the council finally gave its blessing, allowing a group of citizens to privately raise money for a recreation complex off Old County Road.

On Saturday, Mayor Brian Harden said the fundraising success will prove the level of interest in the proposed recreation project.

“We haven’t allowed that to the happen yet,” he said, adding, “our recreational facilities are aging.”

The $4.3 million project consists of reshaping 20 acres to accommodate as many fields as possible and a metal sports building. The land off Old County Road, near the MBNA building, was donated to the city in the early 1980s by the Jaycees.

Over the years, the club bought up nine individual parcels of land. Harden was club president when he handed over the deeds to the city. Today, the city has two existing playing fields at what is called Jaycee Park.

“The [Jaycees] club always envisioned it as completely recreational,” Harden said.

“Everything will be in one location,” Rene Dorr, city recreation director, said Friday.

A year ago, the building size was described as 21,000 square feet with three basketball courts, a weight room, storage rooms, offices and a meeting room. An outdoors concession stand and bathrooms are also included in the plans.

“It’s pretty much a stripped-down field house,” Dorr said, referring to the proposed metal structure. “It’s a working building.”

What’s new in the recreation scheme is “the [Rockport YMCA] wants to collaborate with us,” Dorr said. “They want a satellite in this area.”

The YMCA is interested in renting space in Rockland’s new facility for day care and a weight room, Dorr said. That space is not figured into the $2.6 million building cost, but Dorr noted a weight room could be used by the YMCA and the city.

Orcutt Associates of Yarmouth is designing the complex, which will have irrigated and lighted fields that are oriented for optimum sunlight exposure.

The plans include two Little League fields and an adult softball field, which will have an outfield and outlying area that offer room for three soccer leagues to have fields.

A Babe Ruth field will have an outfield with room for a regulation football field, he said, adding “we’re still playing with [field] orientation.”

The $1.7 million for fields does not include bleachers, Dorr said, but grading of the land will offer the possibility of amphitheater seating that overlooks the first base of the Babe Ruth field and a corner of the football field.

Orcutt will prepare updated plans so fundraisers have something to show prospective investors, Dorr said. It also will develop an outline of operating costs and a mechanical plan with proposed staffing and hours of operation.

Dorr figures a slate of new programs and activities and use by other communities would generate more revenue for the city.

Referring to the fundraising effort, Dorr said, “we’re behind. A few years ago, we had the momentum. We’re trying to get our feet underneath us – we’ve got to get the ball rolling.”

A fundraising team is being organized, Dorr said, and several ideas for generating money include auctions, hosting keynote sports speakers and a campaign to cover the existing recreation center basketball court with pennies.

Private and corporate donations and three recreation grants are also part of the fundraising plan.

For three years, the Maine Lobster Festival has been collecting money toward the recreation project, Dorr said, explaining that on kids’ day, it sets aside a portion of admissions fees.

“We will be supporting this effort in a number of ways,” Festival Vice President Chuck Kruger said Saturday, only disclosing that its monetary gift will be in the “five-figures” range.

Right now, the overall plan calls for keeping the existing recreation center at 144 Limerock St., which could be used as a teen center, Dorr said, as well as it’s current uses, which include an after-school program, game room, dances, meetings, and voting.

“It would become pretty much a true community center,” he said of the existing recreation center.

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