Bath council to study Armory as possible location for skatepark

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BATH — Skateboarders may get their wish for a new skatepark at the former National Guard Armory, if the price is right.

The City Council plans next month to discuss spending $5,000 to determine the cost of work needed at the armory to make it viable for community use.

The council voted last year to borrow up to $175,000 to purchase the Old Brunswick Road building. While a use for the property has yet to be determined, it has been eyed as the future home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark.

The council is considering three demolition options for the former YMCA on Summer Street, where the community skatepark is currently based.

The old Y was replaced when the Bath Area Family YMCA opened on Centre Street in 2001. Since then, and the old Y’s dilapidated state has left the fate of the Skatepark uncertain.

The town is awaiting results from an air quality test of parts of the old Y that are still in use, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni told the City Council Wednesday. His department maintains the building, and he informed City Manager Bill Giroux recently about a significant hole in the pool roof and that the walls were beginning to separate from the abutting properties.

Balboni noted that local teens rallied in 1998 to provide a place for them to skate and get together, a key step along the road to the formation of the Skatepark. He said the Skatepark operated in a non-profit capacity before becoming part of the city in 2008.

Balboni said his department has been “extremely fiscally responsible” in managing the Skatepark, and that they have “worked really hard to where we’ve gotten today. We provide something to the youth that no one else does in this community, and my staff are an important part of these kids’ lives.”

He pointed out that the issues in the pool area are not the Skatepark’s fault, and that “we did a lot of work on the park that we’re in. We did heating upgrades, we did roof upgrades.”

The council is faced with three options, presented by Stephen Blatt Architects, of how to demolish the old Y. The first, estimated to cost nearly $274,000, would involve the pool, boiler and fitness sections of the facility being torn down, while the gym and lobby would still be used for the Skatepark. Blatt considers this option difficult due to lack of space for staging a demolition crane, recycling containers and temporary material storage.

The second option could cost more than $410,000 and would include demolition of the entire facility. Demolition staging would be simpler from Summer Street through removal of the gym and lobby first, and the gym area would facilitate space for the crane to be staged, as well as for the recycling containers and material storage.

Option three, which could cost nearly $468,000, would see the pool, boiler and fitness areas demolished first, while the gym and lobby would come down separately later on. Balboni told the council earlier this month that he and the Skatepark board of directors recommend the third option, and that the Armory provides an opportunity for the Skatepark to relocate.

Balboni on Wednesday asked the council to approve $5,000 to hire contractors to conduct a study of the Armory, to determine how much renovations at the facility will cost. He noted afterward that necessary improvements include bathroom, plumbing and electrical upgrades, as well as a sprinkler system.

“Let’s base the decisions on actual numbers,” he said. “What would it cost to be in there?”

Balboni noted that it is important, in the process of the Skatepark board pursuing funding for the move, for the city to support the Armory being used to house the Skatepark.

“Anything we can do to reduce the tax burden, the better,” he said.

Jackie Dwinal of Washington Street noted that she has nothing against the youth in the community, but that “the burden of finding a home for the Skatepark should not lie solely on the shoulders of Bath taxpayers, but on the Skatepark.”

Skatepark board member Heidi Tucker said the group is “excited about moving our kids and our equipment to a new facility, and we’re willing and ready to write the grants we need to, to at least get that part of the move done.”

The City Council is scheduled to meet again Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.