LACONIA — Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, yesterday described Memorial Field in the South End as "a rising priority", in response to a letter in The Daily Sun from Earl Beale, adjutant of Wilkins-Smith Post 1 of the American Legion charging that the baseball diamond at the park "used to be the jewel of parks in Laconia, but is being let fall apart."
"It's not in great condition," Dunleavy conceded.
He went on to explain that the park has lacked an automated irrigation system, without which it has been both costly and difficult to maintain the playing field. However, while the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee ranked Dunleavy's request for an irrigation system 37th among its priorities last fall, City Manager Scott Myers has included an appropriation of $28,000 for purchasing and installing the system in the 2015-2016 budget that the City Council is expected to adopt next week.
Last year $14,000 was appropriated to replace the bleachers at the baseball field. Dunleavy said that new bleachers will be installed in the coming weeks. The bleachers themselves have arrived and a contractor has been engaged to pour the concrete pad.
In addition, another $25,000 was spent last year resurfacing and relining the five tennis courts at Memorial Park. Although the city has no plans to rebuild the old press box that was taken down, Dunleavy said that he has been approached by representatives of both the American Legion Baseball and Armand J. Laramie Babe Ruth League about having volunteers construct a new press box.
The diamond at Memorial Park is home to the Laconia Middle School baseball team in the spring and American Legion and Babe Ruth teams in the summer. In August Laconia Youth Football practices in the outfield of the baseball field. The high school varsity plays its game at Robbie Mills Field, which also home to the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Dunleavy said that Memorial Field has a special character and appealing atmosphere because it is with walking and cycling distance of so many of the players and their families. The Parks and Recreation Commission, he continued, recognizes the significance of the playing field and considers its improvement a priority.
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