Six Newport citizens have formed an unofficial committee to try to preserve the city’s historic baseball stand, which is planned for demolition.
The group, which includes Mayor Paul Monette and City Councilor / Treasurer James Johnson, was formed about a week after City Councilors voted Jan. 4 to budget $ 25,000 to demolish the building behind Babe Ruth Field in Gardner Park.
“We feel there is a lot of history in the stands,” Johnson said. “I played ball there, a lot of people played ball there … and if it can be saved, if possible, we would love to do it.”
Construction of the grandstand began in 1939 and appeared to be completed within a year or two. according to a newspaper report from the time. The old wooden building can accommodate several hundred people and has overlooked the baseball diamond for decades.
For many years, city leaders looked at upgrading the structure as it fell into disrepair. IN to the 2009 report for a local economic development group, consultants considered the grandstand an important part of the city’s architectural heritage and recommended retaining it. Byens 2015 municipal plan also called for upgrades, which have done previous city budgets.
But at the city council meeting December 21, Mayor Laura Dolgin reported that the building had become a danger, and the city’s insurance company had recommended demolishing it, despite its historic value.
With the demolition plans in motion, residents and officials – as citizens – formed the group to save the stands.
The committee is really an exploratory attempt, Johnson said, to see if the grandstand is salvageable.
“We realized that if we did not try to do something about it now, come this summer, the building would be demolished,” said resident Roger Cartee, chair of the unofficial committee.
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Cartee said the group has several major obstacles to remove before repair work can occur.
The grandstand is in a floodplain, he said, and the group would need state approval to rehabilitate it. The group hopes to get in touch with government officials this week, he said.
Structural analysis of the building must also be completed. Cartee said a study conducted six years ago had actually been a visual assessment of the building. a new study would be needed to measure the structural integrity of the grandstand.
Speaks last week In a local TV show, Monette, the mayor, said the group wants to become a subcommittee of the city’s downtown development group so it can qualify for grants.
The mayor said he recently met a member of the development organization, Newport City Downtown Development Corp.., also known as the Newport City Renaissance Corp. Cartee said that the idea of the grandstand was well received and that the organization’s board will discuss the proposal in the coming weeks.
“Then we can start dealing with state and federal grants and get money for the area,” Cartee said. “This is not going to be a cheap project – it sure is.”
He said that group members have a good relationship with the city officials and do not want to blame anyone in particular on the current condition of the stands.
“If it can’t be saved, it can’t be saved,” Cartee said. “It’s that simple. But it certainly will not be without a fight because we will do everything we can to see if we can fix it.”