BRAG fields status not dire, Macdonald says

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The last thing Bill Macdonald wants is to see the BRAG fields turned over to the town of Bridgton before the complex is ready, leaving the town to foot the bill for unfinished work.

That’s why he said this week he’s not at all concerned by the Board of Selectmen’s April 26 decision not to seek voter approval in June for the transfer of ownership.

“I’m not unhappy at all, and I don’t see (the board’s vote) as a roadblock,” Macdonald said Monday. “We want to make sure everything is perfect, and that the Kendal and Anna Ham Recreation Complex can take its place as the “crown jewel” of sports complexes in western Maine.

A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the complex in June 2013, with fields for softball, baseball and soccer, on land donated in 2010 that is located off the Portland Road near the Bridgton Drive-In. Yet to be completed is a concession stand with restrooms, along with tennis and basketball courts and a playground.

“The people who visit here say it’s really great that the complex is wide open, and that everybody can see the action on all of the fields,” Macdonald said. The open space could someday be used for concerts, he added.

The BRAG (Bridgton Recreation Advancement Group) Board of Directors has been delayed in completing those projects, because much of its fundraising dollars and donations have gone toward maintenance. When first permitted, the plans included an ambitious drainage plan that was scaled back after Macdonald took over as BRAG president in 2009, he said.

“The plans were overkill — they were more suited for a major league softball field,” he said. Since 2009, BRAG has raised around $800,000, including $225,000 from the town’s Moose Pond Trust Fund and another $225,000 from the Ham Foundation, with Major League Baseball also providing $100,000.

The decision was made not to have such an elaborate plan, and engineer George Sawyer was hired to do the redesign. Macdonald said he didn’t realize the revised plan required a new Planning Board approval, but acknowledged that “We have some drainage issues that we need to address.” Three of the fields are complete, but a fourth field and the soccer playing area have some wet areas that need to be addressed by changes to the drainage system, he said.

Macdonald said BRAG volunteers stand ready to sit down with selectmen over the next few months and outline an agreement for ownership transfer that will satisfy both sides.

“I, and many others, have literally have too much time, effort, money and blood invested in this project just to walk away from it,” said Macdonald. “I’m sure we can work it out, and everybody will be happy.”

 

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