Bath Skatepark proponents eye former armory

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BATH — The former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road could be the future home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark.

But a key obstacle is finding the money for the city to purchase the property, demolish the building and build a new one for the Skatepark.

Bath Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said the armory is the Skatepark board’s top choice, “taking into consideration the the cost of it. We’re more interested in the location, not necessarily the building. The location being next to the middle school is our No. 1 priority, if we can financially do it.”

Balboni said input from forums held this spring with the public and users of the Skatepark, which is now in the old YMCA building on Summer Street, favored exploring the armory site. Other options included renovation of the Skatepark’s current location and construction of a new building on a separate site. Sizes discussed for that latter option ranged from 5,166 square feet to the current Skatepark size of 10,472 square feet.

“Now we really need to do some research to see if (the armory option) is even feasible,” Balboni said.

He noted it seems unlikely that the Skatepark will qualify for economic development tax increment financing district money.

“Our original thought was that if they were to remodel the current building that we’re in, for economic development, that we could possibly use some of that to relocate the Skatepark,” Balboni explained. “But that doesn’t sound like that’s going to work, by the state guidelines.”

Renovation of the existing facility would require an 18-month shutdown, which is not an attractive prospect to Skatepark users.

“At the same time, Brunswick has also closed their park while they’re rebuilding the old high school into a new elementary school,” Balboni said. “So in this area, they definitely don’t want to see another park get shut down.”

Balboni said the armory is for sale by the state, and that the board is waiting to see the results of an appraisal that will be concluded in August. “In the meantime we’re just going to try to study and figure out if we were to build a new building, what would that look like, and what realistically are the costs,” he said.

According to costs presented during the forums, relocation to the armory would cost $2.5 million for purchase and renovation. The Armory is about 17,500 square feet, which includes a basement with water damage and drainage issues, leaving about 12,000 square feet of quality space upstairs.

“If we went to the armory property we’d (demolish the building),” Balboni said. “There’s no question that the city and the taxpayers don’t want to take on another 100-plus-year-old building to renovate … we don’t want to jump from one old building to another.”

Asbestos abatement has taken place in the old YMCA, but the facility’s long-term structural integrity and long-term mechanical and electrical needs, as well as an inefficient heating system, remain problematic. Balboni said the roof would likely need to be replaced within five or six years, too.

Demolition and reconstruction of the Skatepark at its present location would cost $1.8 million, according to figures presented at the forums.

The armory property includes 0.6 acres leased by Regional School Unit 1 for parking at Bath Middle School, and the armory itself comprises about 1.3 acres, Balboni said, adding that the two pieces together have been appraised at about $360,000.

“I think that they’ve figured out that they can sell the School Department that parking piece,” he explained, “so we’re kind of waiting to see what the appraisal comes back on the building and the 1.3-acre piece.”

The cost of a new building about the same size as the current Skatepark could be about $1.9 million, Balboni said, adding that “we’re trying to just be careful of not making a huge, hefty price tag on it.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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skate park.JPGThe former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road may one day be the next home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. (Lear photo)

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.