Mitchell College pitches plan to build NCAA softball field on city property

New London — Mitchell College wants to build a $500,000 collegiate softball field and looking at city land for the proposed location.

The city and college are hashing out details of a proposed lease agreement that would allow a new field to be constructed with dugouts and bleachers on the footprint of one of two existing softball fields at Toby May Park off Ocean Avenue, adjacent to college property.

Both ballfields now are used by New London Little League softball teams. The college would construct the ballfield to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III standards on what is now called Softball Field No. 2. Terms of a draft agreement between the city and college would give the school priority use of the field for practices, games and special events during the spring college softball season.

Mitchell plans to share the field with New London Little League softball, which also will have use of the field for practices and games. New London High School softball will be allowed to use the field for special games when it is otherwise not in use.

In what New London Recreation Director Tommie Major said would be a big win for the city is an agreement by the college to spend an estimated $25,000 annually to maintain the field and equipment there. The maintenance would cover the dugouts and scoreboard, grass cutting, field lining and trash pickup at college events.

“I just want this to be a win-win for everybody,” Major said. “Our kids will be getting a first-class Division III field where they can practice and play. How many kids get that kind of opportunity?”

Under terms of the draft agreement, Mitchell event parking will remain on the college campus. The college also will conduct clinics for the New London Little League softball teams. The city would continue to maintain its seasonal maintenance at the Toby May restrooms.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Mitchell College and the City of New London to partner on the improvement and maintenance of a community asset,” Mitchell College interim Co-President Mary-Jane McLaughlin said.

“This is something we could do on our own property, but we think this is an opportunity to do it in a way to build the assets of the City and benefit the College and we believe this is an example of the kind of partnership project that could be used to build the City going forward,” she said.

New London Little League President Vaughn Dowsett said he hasn’t seen the written proposal but is hopeful the final lease contains all the provisions in the draft agreement.

“Mitchell College has always been a friend of the Little League. We have good faith that Mitchell will take care of us,” Dowsett said. “Our main concern was that our girls are taken care of.”

One other benefit, Dowsett said, is that the field will be maintained without the Little League having to burden the city with calls to cut the grass.

The proposed agreement contains a provision that representatives from the college and Parks and Recreation Commission meet each January to determine the year’s schedule for shared use, to avoid any conflicts.

Outside of the college softball season, the proposed agreement calls for a future agreement on any limitations on the uses of the field.

“The guiding principal will be that no use will be permitted of the field which would cause significant damage to its condition as a DIII softball field, or which conflicts with the time needed to restore, reseed, etc.” the proposed agreement reads.

The Parks and Recreation Commission is expected to discuss the proposal at a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the New London Senior Center. The City Council has scheduled a public hearing during its meeting on Aug. 5. The council eventually will vote on the proposed lease.

g.smith@theday.com

Editors note: This version corrects the date of a public hearing for discussion of a potential lease between Mitchell College and the city.   

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