Waterford's new softball field finally rounds the bases

Waterford — At long last, the high school's new softball field is on deck.

Earlier this month, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a modification for an existing town site plan to construct a softball field at 20 Rope Ferry Road. The project is approximately four decades in the making.

The initiative has gone through all the proper channels — the Board of Education for approval, Planning and Zoning and the Conservation Commission for permits, as well as the Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Finance for funding. First Selectman Rob Brule signed the contract between Field Turf Inc. and the town last Thursday, and construction began Monday. The WBA Group is acting as design consultant on the project, and Bernardo Land Surveying is the surveyor.

At one time, the plan was to spend more than $1 million on the new field. The final price came to $990,942.99.

"I used to coach girls' soccer in town for years, which is partly why this is so important to me," Brule said. "I was the last girls' coach who had to play off-site. We had to take a bus to Clark Lane Middle School to practice or play games.

"For years to come, this is going to be another reason why families decide to settle down in Waterford," Brule added.

At the moment, the softball team doesn't have its own field. They play at Veterans' Memorial Park, which isn't on school property and has larger dimensions than those required for women's fast-pitch softball.

"Not only our girls, but other teams too; they were cheated out of home runs!" Selectwoman Jody Nazarchyk said. "I don't think that was fair."

Since 2017, Nazarchyk and others have tried to assemble support for a new field. She and Board of Education member Gregory Benoit have noted the boys' baseball field at the school was renovated within the last 10 years.

A regulation softball field was part of planned high school upgrade in the 1980s, but it was removed from the project.

Beyond equal facilities for the male and female athletes at Waterford, the new softball field is multi-use, and other teams, such as soccer, lacrosse and football, can practice on it. Plans for the field show the Lancer logo placed in center field. Turf color on the field will be green, the warning track and infield will be brown and the pitcher's area will be clay.

Nazarchyk said that weather permitting, the field could be ready for play by April.

"We want the seniors to play on the new field," Nazarchyk said. "I've seen them play all the way from Little League, and they deserve it."

Waterford softball coach Andrew Walker credited private citizen Rob Marelli, part of a group Walker assembled to push for a softball diamond three years ago, for bringing the field to fruition.

"One individual alone stepped up to the plate and was relentless in pushing through the political red tape and countless obstacles thrown in our way," Walker wrote in an email. "Waterford High School softball will forever be grateful for Rob Marelli's relentless pursuit of a field for the girls that should have been created many years ago."

While Benoit said the recent success of Waterford softball has nothing to do with the decision to build a new field, its impending construction caps a glittering year for the town's high school teams, including a second-straight state championship in boys' basketball, a baseball state title, its third softball state championship of the decade and other successes.

s.spinella@theday.com

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