AUGUSTA — Ray Fecteau believes what’s good about playing the game of pétanque could be even better on a summer night, under the lights.
Fecteau, who led the drive in 2011 to build the courts alongside the Kennebec River at Mill Park, wants to raise about $25,000 in private donations to add lights to the courts.
He has quite a list of what’s already good about playing pétanque in Augusta, even during the day. The game is played by tossing or rolling metal balls, or boules, as close as possible to the cochonnet — the small target ball.
Tonight the Augusta City Council will consider approving a statement showing support for the project, even though it would involve private fundraising, not city funding.
“I believe playing this game together helps build community,” Fecteau told councilors recently. “It’s a good way to meet neighbors, make new friends and give people plenty of time to chat.
“A person doesn’t need special athletic abilities to play. It’s a low-impact sport that can help your health.”
Fecteau said his blood-sugar levels are much lower during pétanque season than any other time of year. He also said it’s a good multi-generational sport, noting that the Augusta courts are handicapped-accessible.
“And once play becomes more serious and tournaments start to happen, it can be an economic tool to attract people to Augusta,” he said.
But why do the courts need lights? Fecteau answers with his own questions.
“Why do tennis courts need lights? Why does the softball field, or baseball field, need lights? The simple reason is it would extend play into the evening hours,” he said.
Fecteau also said Mill Park can get very hot on a summer day, so playing in the evening would be more comfortable and perhaps even draw in new players to the game.
Fecteau said the number of people playing the sport is small but growing, both in Augusta and nationwide.
Millions of people play it worldwide, and it’s wildly popular in France, where an estimated 17 million people play.
In 2011, when the courts were built at Mill Park at a cost of about $20,000 and with some help from city workers, 13 people played regularly.
Last year, 22 played regularly, with 32 on an email list for participants, according to Fecteau.
Fecteau said the community was generous in supporting the park’s construction, and he’s already gotten about $3,200 in donations toward the light project, plus some supplies and promises of labor. He said donors can contribute by writing a check to the city of Augusta with “Mill Park pétanque” in the memo line, or they can call him at 622-3389.
Councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 tonight in council chambers at Augusta City Center. They also are scheduled to:
• Hold a public hearing and vote on a proposed tax-increment financing proposal to assist Augusta East Redevelopment Corp. redevelop the soon-to-be former MaineGeneral Medical Center site on
East Chestnut Street;
• Hear a presentation from a Maine Department of Transportation official regarding the exit 113 reconstruction project on Interstate 95; and
• Consider issuing a request for proposals, in collaboration with the city of Gardiner, Kennebec County, and the Administrative Office of the Courts, seeking a firm to provide natural gas to city and school facilities.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647