?Finish Strong" reached a major milestone last week when board members of Strong Center at the Surf Club Project presented members of the Board of Selectmen with a check for $195,000. The donation from the private, non-profit organization will be added to the town funds already in place and allow the town to purchase new 2,000-seat bleachers for the renovated Strong Field.
Days earlier the Board of Selectmen had received bids on the new bleachers and accepted a low bid from Southern Bleacher Company in Texas for 1,500 seats at a cost of $140,000. The selectmen will be using $100,000 from the Strong Fund, a special fund set up by the donor after whom the field is named; $40,000 raised through the sale of the old bleachers, which were sold as scrap metal; and the top soil removed from the field to permit the installation of artificial turf.
"And that's it," First Selectman Fillmore McPherson told the selectmen early last week, "That's the town's portion of skin in the game."
His office was waiting for a last-minute word from the Strong Center Project board.
"Additional seating will depend on what the private group can raise," McPherson said.
The private group raised exactly what was needed and presented that check to the town on June 28. With the news that the funds were coming, Town Engineer Mike Ott had already called the Southern Bleacher Company the day before and increased its original order from 1,500 seats to 2,000 seats.
Duo Dickinson, a Strong Center Project board member and its architect, said, "Two thousand seats was the goal of our original plan when I drew it up five years ago."
With this check, the funds the group has raised in the past few years, and the funds Dickinson said have been committed for the near future, "Phase 1 of this project is complete."
In this phase of the project, Strong Field will receive new bleachers, new fencing, new lights, new press box, and a new playing field of artificial turf. Each of these components, Dickinson pointed out, are the "best" the market has to offer. The "best" bleachers, in addition to offering seating for 2,000, are handicapped accessible. The "best" new lighting improves vision on every inch of the playing field while being kind to neighbors. The "best" turf, which is expected to be laid down during the week of July 8, is the same just installed for the Detroit Lions.
The new press box-"It will be the best in the state," Dickinson contended-is expected to be delivered around Sept. 1. The Exchange Club has donated $1,500 toward its purchase. It has committed more if needed, Dickinson said, and the owner of the company supplying the press box has offered an in-kind donation of $50,000.
"So far, about three-quarters of a million dollars have been donated or committed by private individuals and community organizations, including in-kind services. So far, we have not needed to compromise on quality or our plan. This completes our Phase 1 for Strong Center," Dickinson said.
The organization will now initiate Phase 2. For more information or to donate, visit