OAKLAND — A new all-purpose field turf for the Harold Alfond Mini Fenway Park is expected to be in place in May after a $600,000 renovation project.
The enhanced field will enable softball, Babe Ruth-level baseball and several other sports to be played in the park, according to Ken Walsh, chief executive officer of the Alfond Youth Center.
Mini Fenway, which is a two-thirds-scale replica of the oldest Major League Baseball ballpark in the U.S., in Boston, opened in 2007 and serves hundreds of children a year through baseball leagues and summer camps. With the new renovations to the field, mostly centered around a new all-purpose turf, hundreds more will have the opportunity to play at “Fenway.”
Because of topographical differences in a baseball and softball field — a baseball field requires a raised pitching mound; a softball field, a flat surface — it was nearly impossible to equip Mini Fenway for both, Walsh said.
“Since we’ve built the ballpark, we’ve said, âHow do we get girls on the field without ruining the pitcher’s mound?'” he said. “We knew the field had to be adjusted.”
Walsh approached Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation President Stave Salem, who was looking to put 50 new playing fields across the country, and the foundation committed to a $100,000 fundraising challenge. Over the past year, the local project got a boost from several local donations, including University of Maine alumnus John Huard, owner of South Portland-based Northeast Turf, Hue Inc., a synthetic field turf supply and installation company.
On Monday, Walsh announced that Kennebec Savings Bank has donated $50,000 toward the field, which he said would start to be installed once the weather permits it.
As of Monday, the field, with a 20-foot-tall Green Monster wall in left field, a notorious triangle in centerfield and a short porch in right field, was covered in several feet of snow. Walsh said the last hurdles for Maine Department of Environmental Protection permits are “right around the corner.”
About $500,000 of the $600,000 needed for the entire project has been raised, Walsh said. Enough money has been raised to start installing the field in the coming weeks, with a possible completion in May; but additional money still needs to be raised for new equipment to maintain the turf. Officials also want to purchase new baseball equipment and signs, including Boston Red Sox World Series banners — adding more authenticity to the replica.
“The game of baseball is special and it’s an especially unique time when the Red Sox win the World Series,” Walsh said. “It’s great timing to bring this new renovation to the community.”
In addition to being able to field Little League, Softball and Babe Ruth levels of baseball and the New England Baseball Camp, the all-turf field will be able to house camps for other sports, including soccer and field hockey, according to Walsh.
The Youth Center, which houses the Waterville Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA of Greater Waterville, is planning a ceremony for the late spring or early summer to unveil the new surface officially, Walsh said, and are hoping to get former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield there.
Mini Fenway is licensed by Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox.
Philanthropist Harold Alfond, after whom the youth center was named, was a minority owner of the Red Sox when he was part of a group that purchased the team in 1978.