SOUTHINGTON — Town Manager Garry Brumback included $300,000 in his proposed 2014-15 budget to install lights at the Recreation Park soccer field, the youth football field at the drive-in site and one of the Western Little League fields. The money would be paid back to the town over time through private fundraising by the leagues benefiting from the lights.
“At this point it’s just pending approval from the Board of Finance and the Town Council,” said David Lapreay, recreation director. “If the money does get approved we’ll be going out (to bid) for prices for certain companies.”
For Skip Griffin, president of Western Little League, installing lights at one of their fields would mean more playing time, practice time and a possible season extension from 15 to 20 games. Their season usually starts toward the end of April, depending on the weather.
“We do have our four fields, but typically (practices) are at the mercy of daylight,” Griffin said. “We’ve had to call games because of darkness.”
Part of the plan is that the town will provide the Western Little League with a loan upfront so the lights can be installed in a timely fashion. From there, the league would raise money to pay the town back. Griffin said the league received some cost estimates for installing lights on one of their fields for about $65,000.
“Instead of raising money for five or six years, we can put lights in now and pay the town back,” Griffin said. “We’re not looking for a handout from the town.”
Board of Park Commissioners member Mike DeFeo was in favor of the money included in the proposed budget. He said the town’s soccer league and the Southington Valley Midget Football League would also be raising money to pay back the cost of the lights.
“I think it’s outstanding,” DeFeo said. “It’s well needed in town, especially with the lack of space, this would create more practice.”
About 300 children play in Western Little League alone, and Griffin said the league is already talking about various fundraisers to pay for the lights.
“We can finish games that we normally wouldn’t be able to finish,” Griffin said. “We don’t have to bring them back over the weekend.”
If the funding is approved this budget season, Lapreay said he hopes to start working with Town Attorney Mark Sciota on creating requests for proposals from interested companies. An exact schedule of when the lights would be installed and finished if the money stays in the budget hasn’t been established yet.
“Having lights on there opens up more field space and game times,” Lapreay said.