Maintaining Dodd Stadium worth it for Norwich

It is understandable why the Norwich City Council might be reluctant to invest in upgrades to its local minor league baseball stadium at a time when the Board of Education is arguing that its schools are inadequately funded and the downtown tax rate approaches 50 mills. But Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, built largely with state funding, is an important city asset. Money for needed maintenance would be bonded and have a relatively small effect on taxation.

The bottom line is that failing to make the modest investment of $800,000 would risk losing the minor league franchise that calls the 25-year-old Dodd Stadium home. That would be a mistake that Norwich could well come to regret.

The money would be spent on upgrading field lights that do not meet current professional baseball standards and replacing the aging ventilation systems that serve the clubhouses.

The Baseball Stadium Authority would like to extend the netting protecting spectators in field-side seats. In an age when fans are often distracted by use of their smartphone — a reality we accept but don’t embrace — line drives into the stands have become a bigger safety and liability issue.

The stadium authority would also use the funding, if authorized, to address various other maintenance issues.

The Norwich City Council could act on the request at Monday’s meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. While the council should authorize the bonding, it should make the allocation contingent upon extending the lease with the Connecticut Tigers, the stadium’s Single-A minor league baseball tenant.

A 10-year lease with the Tigers expires in 2019, but includes provisions for two five-year extensions. The stadium authority needs to negotiate at least a five-year extension before releasing the maintenance money. It would make no sense for Norwich to invest in the stadium if the tenant could leave after 2019.

It is significant to note that the use of this asset extends beyond Tigers games. Dodd Stadium has seen increased use for high school and college games and tournaments, with about 70 such games expected this season.

The baseball at Dodd provides wholesome and affordable family entertainment and generates money for the local economy. It is worth maintaining.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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