Theodore Wiser, 4, takes his turn trying to throw a nerf football through an Aerobie held by his brother Jaxson Wiser, 6, while they played outside the Skowhegan Community Center on Friday. Selectmen this week approved preliminary plans for the layout of additional athletic fields at the community center. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen this week approved a proposal for the layout and field surface of an expanded athletic complex next to the Skowhegan Community Center.

There’s still much work to be done before construction begins at the community center at 39 Poulin Drive, but selectmen on Tuesday advanced the project by approving the proposal recommended by the town’s recreation advisory committee.

The plan includes three tennis courts, six pickleball courts, one baseball field with grass, and one artificial turf multipurpose field, as well as a concession stand and other amenities.

Tuesday’s vote means the town can now develop more detailed plans and pricing for the construction of the facilities.

But it still needs to secure the rest of the funding to start the first phase of work, Parks and Recreation Director Denise LeBlanc told selectmen. Although town officials want to complete the project as soon as possible, LeBlanc could not guarantee that the baseball and multipurpose fields will be ready by spring 2025.

The town began work on the project to expand and renovate the community center athletic complex back in 2006. But it took on greater urgency when Maine School Administrative District 54 began construction this year on a new elementary school that will overtake Memorial Field along Heselton Street.


Memorial Field was the home of Skowhegan Area High School’s baseball and tennis teams, as well as some recreational leagues. The new proposed athletic facilities will give those teams new permanent homes.

Selectmen approved the proposed layout of the fields and courts at the community center, but because of the gap in funding, debated at length the requirement that the multipurpose field be artificial turf, given that a grass field may be cheaper.

“If we can afford artificial turf for (that field) then I’m all for it,” Selectman Charles Robbins said. “But I don’t want to vote to lock in the artificial turf and then get screamed at by the taxpayers … because we can’t afford it.”

Other selectmen expressed a sense of urgency about building the fields and did not want one detail to prevent the project from moving forward. “We’ve been dragging this thing on forever,” Selectman Paul York said.

The measure was ultimately approved 3-2, with Robbins and Selectman Harold Bigelow opposed.

LeBlanc now can continue to apply for federal grants and solicit private donations to fund construction. The town currently has $1.9 million from selling the Memorial Field land to MSAD 54, over $700,000 in reserve accounts, and $200,000 donated by New Balance.

“I’m going to do my hardest if we’re short to have funding by next year,” LeBlanc said. “I just want to get this thing going.”

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