By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The city is seeking $400,000 from the state for repairs to Trinity Stadium, including the crumbling concrete stands.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the money would also pay for new lights to replace the stadium’s old ones, which are fading and making nighttime sporting events difficult.
The mayor said the city has applied for the money from the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities program — PARC for short.
The City Council and the city’s Stadium Commission have been pushing Fiorentini for months to apply for the grant for the stadium. But the mayor had said he did not believe repairing an existing structure, such as a stadium, would fall under guidelines for the grant.
Those guidelines indicated the state was looking to provide money for acquiring parkland in the grant’s next round of awards.
Fiorentini also said the PARC grant’s $400,000 cap was a deterrent to targeting it for the stadium, since the facility needs almost $5 million in work.
But the mayor said he was convinced by Haverhill High School Athletic Director Tom O’Brien and state Rep. Brian Demspsey, D-Haverhill, to craft a PARC application for the stadium anyway.
“Tom persuaded me to go for whatever we can get and try to get the repairs done in phases,” the mayor said of O’Brien, adding that money from the grant, if successful, will be used to install new lights and repair one section of the dilapidated concrete grandstand.
Dempsey suggested applying for stadium money would show the state that repairing the complex, formerly called Haverhill Stadium, is a top priority for the city, the mayor said.
“It could increase the city’s chances of receiving some other state funding in the future, if we don’t get this one,” Fiorentini said.
Since 2006, the state has provided about $3 million for stadium work, most of it to repair two of the five grandstand sections, fix structural problems and replace the grass field with artificial turf.
At least another $2 million is needed to make the most pressing repairs — fixing crumbling sections of the grandstand and installing new lights, city officials said.
O’Brien, who is also chairman of the Stadium Commission, said the facility 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 commission oversees the 77-year-old sports complex on Lincoln Avenue in the Riverside section of Haverhill.
Other parts of the facility that need to be repaired include the brick wall that surrounds the stadium, locker rooms and the parking lot. The stadium also needs a new press box that must include an elevator due to handicapped accessibility laws, O’Brien said. The unrenovated sections of grandstand are crumbling and closed to the public. The cost of finishing the entire project is $4.7 million, O’Brien said.
“No one wants to see the stadium finished more than me,” the mayor said at a recent City Council meeting. “But I don’t want to raise the public’s expectations for the stadium. I prefer to under-promise and over-deliver.”
The mayor said the city’s PARC application also made it clear a top priority is getting $150,000 to buy a half-mile of land owned by Pan Am Railroad on the Bradford side of the Merrimack River. Acquiring the land would allow the city to extend its fledgling rail trail pathway east toward Crescent Yacht Club, he said.