BERLIN — A new concession and restroom facility will be added to the Northern Worcester Athletic Complex next year in time for Berlin Little League (BLL) Opening Day 2014.
The project reached its funding goal this week when the Berlin Town Council unanimously approved a $10,000 donation to the league.
The addition of the facility next year will allow more tournaments to be played in Berlin, fueling the local economy and showcasing the area to players and families that could become regular visitors, according to BLL representative Ray Thompson.
“There’s really a trickle-down effect for the town of Berlin if we can get this money,” promised Thompson after requesting the donation.
Even though the current restrooms don’t allow for certain tournaments, Thompson reminded the council of a junior league event that Berlin hosted last summer that triggered a boom in visitors.
“That tournament alone brought nearly 5,000 people to the area,” he said.
The new facility has been in the works for two years and will replace the decades old concession stand and portable restrooms currently at the park.
“Our existing concession stand building is over 30 years old. It’s really met its useful life,” said Thompson. “One of the things that has really inhibited our ability to do fundraisers, things like tournaments … is that per Little League international rules we have to have a restroom facility that is ADA (American Disability Act) compliant and has running water. And we don’t have that at Berlin Little League Park right now.”
Once completed, the planned replacement facility will be two stories tall and include a concession area, modern restrooms and a meeting room for umpires and BLL officials.
“The building will really have a lot of other purposes other than restrooms and concession,” Thompson said.
The structure will be built on a $150,000 budget, $100,000 of which will be grant funded. However, to receive that grant BLL needs to bring $50,000 of its own money to the project. Through donations and fundraising, the league has already been able to raise $40,000.
“We need another $10,000 to kind of get us across the finish line,” Thompson told the council.
While the league was still short of their goal Monday, Thompson gave a shout out to the parents and BLL partners that have pitched in to get the project to $40,000 through fundraising including a program that lets individuals buy bricks that will be assembled into a patio around the new facility.
“So what we’re going to do as time goes on is we’re going to create this patio area around the building, so generation after generation, as their children come through the league, can purchase a brick on that patio and it will get larger and larger and larger,” Thompson said.
The council was receptive to Thompson’s request for a donation and enthusiastic about the BLL program.
“We’ve been trying to find so many different ways to attract lots of different folks, but particularly families to Berlin … I think this would be a natural extension of everything that’s been done in this community for a long time,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.
Councilwoman Lisa Hall agreed and pointed out that Berlin “is a very big baseball area” and would benefit from hosting more tournaments.
There was only one concern. Councilwoman Paula Lynch asked if there was water and sewer available on site for the restrooms. Thompson admitted he was not as clear on that point as the budget side of the project.
“I do know there is an existing septic system on-site,” he said, though he added that he’s heard “mixed reports” about whether the facility can connect to that septic.
The council promised to sit down with the county if needed to help iron out any issues with water and sewer service to the building. The council voted unanimously, with Councilman Elroy Brittingham absent, to grant the $10,000 donation to BLL. Whether that money comes from this year or the next fiscal year will be determined as the council works out its budget this spring.