Long time coming: New ballfields should be ready by November

It’s been a long time coming, but two new synthetic athletic fields, which the city approved in February of 2014, are being built on Orange Avenue, on city-owned land next to the YMCA.

Tractors and land excavating equipment rolled in more than a month ago to clear the land.

“The project is scheduled to be completed by the late fall of this year,” said Milford Park, Beach and Recreation Department Director Paul Piscitelli.

The approximate cost of the project is $3.9 million.

In August of 2015, the Board of Aldermen approved a land swap between the city and YMCA — the last hurdle in a mission to build these new fields.

The city had been eyeing field construction since they bought 3.3 acres of land on Orange Avenue in 2006 for $700,000 from Gary Novelli, who was using the land as an apple orchard.

As the years went on and plans began to take shape, city leaders initially thought they would put one ball field on the YMCA property, and the other on the adjacent city-owned land. But after studying the concept, Milford’s officials learned it wasn’t the best layout. Mayor Ben Blake explained in 2015, when city aldermen were discussing a land swap with the YMCA, that the original plan wasn’t ideal because of the positioning of the fields in relation to the sun. Sometimes the sun would be in the eyes of key players, Blake said. City officials also decided it would be best to have both fields on city-owned property, rather than splitting them between the city and the YMCA.

So next came the land swap, which took a bit of time because of all the entities that had to sign off: 2.7 acres of city land that formed the driveway to the YMCA property was swapped for 2.5 acres of YMCA land bordering the property where the fields are now being constructed.

The city has long been in need of additional fields, and Piscitelli, plus local sports coaches, had been explaining the need for additional fields long before the land swap was approved.

“One of the most dramatic changes is that individual sports — football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse — are played year-round rather than being played only during their traditional seasons,” Piscitelli said in 2014, when the aldermen voted to spend $3.3 million for two new fields. “This has negatively impacted not only the availability of fields but also the quality of fields, which jeopardizes the safety of all players.”

At that time, Piscitelli also pointed out that participation in youth sports had grown exponentially.

Dan Worroll, chairman of the Park, Beach and Recreation Commission, said the fields have been a long time coming but they will prove to be well worth the wait.

“We had to get the funding, and decide what was the best layout,” Worroll said.

Two huge boulders unearthed during excavation will be used in the landscaping, he added.

The project is being done in cooperation with the YMCA, because the city will still be using an existing athletic field on the YMCA property and will have an agreement for the use of a new walking trail.

A walking and biking trail will surround the fields and loop around the YMCA property. The city and YMCA are working on securing funding for that phase of the project, Piscitelli said.

Green Acres Landscaping & Construction of Lakeville, Mass., is doing the work on the ballfields,  and the project engineer is BSC Group-Connecticut of Glastonbury.