By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini and the Stadium Commission have reached an agreement that will allow the city to make almost $600,000 in repairs and improvements to the Lincoln Avenue sports complex known as Trinity Stadium.
The money will be used to replace old and poor lighting and repair the worst of several crumbling and closed sections of grandstand.
Members of the the Stadium Commission were surprised and concerned when they learned earlier this month that a $588,000 state grant for the work requires a local match of $188,000, Stadium Commission member William Moynihan said.
But Moynihan said the commission, mayor and School Department have agreed to share the cost.
Under the arrangement, the city will borrow $100,000 and then equally share annual payments of $10,000 on the debt for 20 years. The commission will also pay $50,000 from its capital improvement fund, and the city will cover the final $38,000 with “in-kind” services. Those services include providing school and city employees to manage the project, according to the agreement.
The commission will pay its portion of the loan from revenue it receives by selling advertisements at the stadium, including an annual payment from Trinity EMS ambulance company for naming rights to the facility.
The stadium hosts high school baseball, football and soccer games, as well as community events such as the Fourth of July celebration, Haverhill High School graduation and concerts and festivals.
City Council is scheduled to consider the borrowing request at tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The city must borrow the whole $588,000, but the state will reimburse the city $400,000, Fiorentini said.
“This is an extremely small amount of money to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to the stadium,” the mayor said of the city’s $5,000 per year payment on the loan. “We are extremely grateful to the state, especially Representative Brian Demspey, for obtaining this grant.”
High school Athletic Director Tom O’Brien, who is also chairman of the Stadium Commission, has said the stadium is so poorly illuminated that he no longer allows lacrosse games to be played there at night and that there is “barely enough light to meet the requirements for baseball.”
The School Department owns the 77-year-old facility, but it is managed by the Stadium Commission.
Moynihan and School Superintendent James Scully said they are happy with the agreement reached with the mayor over paying the state grant’s local match. City Council President John Michitson said he is also pleased with the compromise.
“Even if we didn’t get the state grant, we were planning to replace the lights from our capital improvement fund anyway,” Moynihan said. “This is a great investment to get a lot of work done.”
Since 2006, the state has provided about $3.4 million for repairs and improvements to the stadium, most of it to repair two of the five grandstand sections, fix structural problems and replace the grass field with artificial turf.
Tom O’Brien, Haverhill’s high school athletic director and the Stadium Commission chairman, has said several million dollars more is needed to fully renovate the facility.
Other parts of the facility that need repairs, O’Brien said, include the brick wall surrounding the stadium, locker rooms and the parking lot. The stadium also needs a new press box that must include an elevator due to accessibility laws.
O’Brien said requests to rent the stadium by sports teams, summer camps and for events have taken off since the initial repairs and artificial turf was installed two years ago. He said there’s great potential for further growth once the renovation is completed.
The stadium boasts an impressive history. The New England Patriots played their first exhibition game at the stadium in 1960, and legend has it that professional baseball players Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were at events there.
The origins of the stadium go back to 1916, when athletic fields and wooden bleachers were built there. In 1936, a brick wall was built to surround the fields, and a concrete grandstand was erected. The bricks that were used to build the wall were salvaged from the Lennox and Briggs factory in Haverhill, which burned in 1935, and the Hilliard and Tabor factory, which was abandoned.