WATERVILLE — City officials are proposing as part of a $1.8 million project to move youth soccer fields from North Street to the Pine Ridge Recreation Area to make way for the Alfond Youth & Community Center to build an ice arena and parking lot on North Street.

City Manager Stephen Daly and Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan said Tuesday that they plan to make a presentation on the project to the City Council next week. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Elm at 21 College Ave. and will be live-streamed via a link on the city’s website. Those wanting to take part in the meeting may do so, also by a link on the website.

The council will be asked to consider borrowing $1.4 million for the project, but no votes will be taken. Daly said a public hearing will be held before the council takes an initial vote, which will probably be their first meeting in November. Two votes are needed.

The center initially planned to build the $4 million to $6 million ice arena where the basketball courts are located at the North Street Recreation Area. The area includes the municipal pool, playground, tennis courts, soccer fields, community gardens, walking trail and canoe-kayak launch. But a decision was made to change the ice arena location, partly because of pushback from neighborhood residents who did not want to see the basketball court moved and trees taken down.

“The trees are going to stay,” Daly said.

Plans now call for the ice rink to be built at the northern end of the recreation area.

“The enhanced plan for both the North Street and Pine Ridge recreation areas is based on the needs and wants of the community,” Skehan said. “It’s important to note that the recreation committee of three city councilors — Thomas Klepach, Mike Morris and Flavia DeBrito — was very involved in the process, with their own voices and the voices of their constituents.”

Morris, D-Ward 1, said in an email that he is excited about the project.

“So much attention has been paid to the downtown, it’s nice to see some projects in other areas finally come to fruition,” he said.  “Most importantly, updating playgrounds which get so much use from the children in our city is beyond exciting for the kids. Another positive is being in a position to add some life to the Pine Ridge area. Establishing it as the premier location for youth soccer in central Maine is exciting on so many levels as it will open the door to host tournaments that will bring more people into town to stay in our hotels and enjoy all of the awesome places we have to eat.”

There are now six soccer fields at North Street and they all would be moved to the Pine Ridge Recreation Area, which includes Rummel’s Field off Louise Avenue. A dog park, athletic fields and softball field are there now. The move would provide safer, off-street parking and a more consolidated program, according to the plan. The dog park would be relocated, the softball field updated, a paved parking area built, new restrooms and concession buildings constructed, and lighting installed to accommodate night play.

Waterville’s North Street Recreation Area, with the Alfond Youth & Community Center at the top, is shown in a recent aerial view. The City Council next week will hear plans to move the soccer fields at the lower right to the Pine Ridge Recreation Area. The move would allow for a proposed ice rink to be built there. Photo courtesy of the city of Waterville

Skehan said the city worked closely with the Waterville Youth Soccer Association and its president, Jesse Wechsler, on the plans.

The basketball court on North Street would be resurfaced and new lights installed, the tennis courts expanded and two new courts to double as pickleball courts will be added, according to plans. Seasonal bathrooms with running water, new shade structures and new playground equipment also would be installed, and a pathway built from North Street to the trails on Messalonskee Stream. Daly and Skehan said they hope work would start in the spring.

“If this gets approved by the council, we’ll be on the street with bids, bid specs, no later than the first of the year,” Daly said.

Green Street Park in the city’s South End also would get new, contemporary playground equipment as part of the plans and a three-season resting and gathering place for people to get out of the weather would be built, Skehan said.

Daly cited several benefits for the broad project, including that people will come to the region for events such as tournaments, spend money at area businesses, and help boost the economy.

“There’s a need for better facilities,” Daly said. “There’s certainly the interest from the recreational community for improved facilities and we also have a considerable economic factor here because Waterville is becoming a recreation destination in central Maine with Quarry Road (Recreation Area) and all the development that’s going on out there.”

Skehan concurred, saying the momentum exists for such changes.

“There’s just a lot of energy and enthusiasm around recreation,” he said.

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