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Task force to study Portland's athletic field uses, needs

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Task force to study Portland's athletic field uses, needs

PORTLAND — A group of school and sports representatives will spend the next several months studying the conditions and uses of the city's athletic facilities.

The Athletic Facilities Task Force is expected to develop a 10-year plan for improvements and also make recommendations about whether the city needs additional playing fields.

A similar study in 2001 identified more than a dozen long- and short-term needs. While some of those needs have been addressed, including installing artificial turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium and at Deering High School's Memorial Field, renovating and refencing the Fox Street field and renovating the softball field at Payson Park, several of the recommendations in the 2001 report have not been implemented.

"The 2001 study was pretty extensive," said City Councilor John Coyne, who will serve as chairman of the task force. "We're going to review that. Some things weren't addressed."

Among the original suggestions not addressed was building a multi-purpose field complex on land the city owns off Washington Avenue Extension. According to the report, Portland needs more baseball fields and instead has lost two since 1983. Leagues cannot rescheduled rained-out games because there is no field availability.

Also, the Deering High School practice fields, the most-used fields in the city, have drainage and irrigation issues that have not been fixed, and extensive work at Dougherty Field has yet to be completed. Bids for a new skatepark there are due next week.

The report also called for two new Little League fields in North Deering and reconstruction of the Lyman Moore multi-purpose field. Those projects have not been completed.

Despite improvements at Quinn Field in Deering Oaks, overuse and poor irrigation continue to make it difficult to grow grass there, the report says.

The Fox Street field improvements, which cost $212,000 in community development funds in 2004, are not wearing well, either. The fence installed in 2004 has been ripped down and torn, and the grass isn't growing because of poor drainage.

In addition to reviewing the recommendations of the last task force, the new group is charged with reviewing existing activity levels on city fields, reviewing the field use policy, and having an energy audit performed on outdoor field lighting.

Members of the task force include Coyne, School Committee member Liz Holton, two Portland school athletic directors, and representatives from school booster clubs, youth leagues and adult leagues.

The task force is expected to begin meeting in January, and Coyne said he hopes to complete the study by May 2010.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net