Norwich City Council approves $800,000 for Dodd Stadium

Norwich – After hearing from several speakers, including officials from the Connecticut Tigers, a high school baseball coach and season ticket holders, the City Council voted 6-0 Monday to approve an $800,000 bond ordinance for improvements to the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium which is deemed necessary to keep the Tigers in Norwich.

The bond ordinance is expected to cover the cost of replacing the stadium lights with energy efficient LED lights, replacing the aging and failing heating and ventilation system in stadium clubhouses and possibly extend protective netting around the infield.

The lighting and ventilation systems are original to the 25-year-old stadium, and the lights no longer meet requirements of Major League Baseball for teams that are minor league affiliates of Major League teams. The Connecticut Tigers are the Class A team of the Detroit Tigers.

Baseball Stadium Authority Chairman Michael Jewell called Dodd Stadium a “unique asset” in the city, with specific requirements unlike many other buildings.

“You can’t just go up there and hang some lights,” Jewell said. “You have to be in compliance with Major League Baseball. If we’re not in compliance, we’re not going to have baseball up there. It’s that simple.”

Jewell reminded the council of the “extraordinary” effort it took to build the stadium and bring minor league baseball to Norwich.

“You don’t want to let that go, folks,” Jewell said. “You really don’t.”

Connecticut Tigers General Manager Dave Schermerhorn told the council that Dodd Stadium hosts more than 80 events at the stadium in the spring and fall, in addition to the Tigers, including all home Norwich Free Academy and St. Bernard baseball games. The Tigers also have contributed more than $1.1 million to charitable organizations in the region over the past nine years.

Norwich Free Academy baseball coach Luke Gabardi said the academy is thrilled to play its home games at Dodd Stadium and urged the council to support the stadium bond.

Season ticket holder Glenn Carberry led the effort in 1994 to bring minor league baseball to Norwich and build the stadium, which cost $10 million, mostly funded by the state. Over the past 25 years, Norwich has invested $1.8 million on stadium upkeep, and now supporters say the stadium needs a major investment.

The Tigers’ lease runs through the 2019 season, and the 10-year lease includes provisions for two five-year extensions. City and team officials said approval of the bond was the first step needed to begin negotiations for a new lease or to exercise one of the five-year extensions.

c.bessette@theday.com

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