Re­gion: Nor­wich ap­proves $800,000 for im­prove­ments to Dodd Sta­dium

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By CLAIRE BES­SETTE Day Staff Writer c.bes­sette@theday.com

Nor­wich — Af­ter hear­ing from sev­eral speak­ers, in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from the Con­necti­cut Tigers, a high school base­ball coach and sea­son ticket hold­ers, the City Coun­cil voted 6-0 Mon­day to ap­prove an $800,000 bond ordinance for im­prove­ments to the Thomas J. Dodd Memo­rial Sta­dium which is deemed nec­es­sary to keep the Tigers in Nor­wich.

The bond ordinance is ex­pected to cover the cost of re­plac­ing the sta­dium lights with en­ergy ef­fi­cient LED lights, re­plac­ing the ag­ing and fail­ing heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem in sta­dium club­houses and pos­si­bly ex­tend pro­tec­tive net­ting around the in­field.

The light­ing and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tems are orig­i­nal to the 25-year-old sta­dium, and the lights no longer meet re­quire­ments of Ma­jor League Base­ball for teams that are mi­nor league af­fil­i­ates of Ma­jor League teams. The Con­necti­cut Tigers are the Class A team of the Detroit Tigers.

Base­ball Sta­dium Au­thor­ity Chair­man Michael Jew­ell called Dodd Sta­dium a “unique as­set” in the city, with spe­cific re­quire­ments un­like many other build­ings.

“You can’t just go up there and hang some lights,” Jew­ell said. “You have to be in com­pli­ance with Ma­jor League Base­ball. If we’re not in com­pli­ance, we’re not go­ing to have base­ball up there. It’s that sim­ple.”

Jew­ell re­minded the coun­cil of the “ex­tra­or­di­nary” ef­fort it took to build the sta­dium and bring mi­nor league base­ball to Nor­wich.

“You don’t want to let that go, folks,” Jew­ell said. “You re­ally don’t.”

Con­necti­cut Tigers Gen­eral Man­ager Dave Scher­mer­horn told the coun­cil that Dodd Sta­dium hosts more than 80 events at the sta­dium in the spring and fall, in ad­di­tion to the Tigers, in­clud­ing all home Nor­wich Free Academy and St. Bernard base­ball games. The Tigers also have con­trib­uted more than $1.1 mil­lion to char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions in the re­gion over the past nine years.

Nor­wich Free Academy base­ball coach Luke Gabardi said the academy is thrilled to play its home games at Dodd Sta­dium and urged the coun­cil to sup­port the sta­dium bond.

Sea­son ticket holder Glenn Car­berry led the ef­fort in 1994 to bring mi­nor league base­ball to Nor­wich and build the sta­dium, which cost $10 mil­lion, mostly funded by the state. Over the past 25 years, Nor­wich has in­vested $1.8 mil­lion on sta­dium up­keep, and now sup­port­ers say the sta­dium needs a ma­jor in­vest­ment.

The Tigers’ lease runs through the 2019 sea­son, and the 10-year lease in­cludes pro­vi­sions for two five-year ex­ten­sions. City and team of­fi­cials said ap­proval of the bond was the first step needed to be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions for a new lease or to ex­er­cise one of the five-year ex­ten­sions.

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