Lowell Park to Get Facelift Starting Next Week
The pride of the Cape Cod Baseball League and its 15-time champion Cotuit Kettleers for over seven decades, Elizabeth Lowell Park on Lowell Avenue in Cotuit will be getting new restroom facilities starting next week... and that's just the beginning.
Baseball players and fans from across the country already agree on one thing for certain: there are few places like Lowell Park in Cotuit and even fewer where a window to the past seems frozen in time.
Still, there's always room for improvement, according to the park's de facto caretaker since 1947, the Cotuit Athletic Association. At its past few monthly meetings, the Cotuit Athletic Association board of directors, the parent organization of the 15-time Cape Cod Baseball League champion Cotuit Kettleers, has been crunching numbers, pouring over fiscal 2013 budget numbers and rattling its fundraising drums to come up with a hopeful $900,000-plus to renovate nearly all aspects of current Lowell Park facilities.
With approximately $129,000 in cash already in hand, including a $10,000 check presented to Association president Paul Logan last thursday from the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Corporation, the board voted 6-2 to approve its fiscal 2013 budget to include breaking ground next week on new and much-needed restroom facility outside the third base line, behind the Kettleer Kitchen. According to Logan, the new facility will include more toilets and a new septic system, "built on the same footprint" as the old facility. Capewide Enterprises LLC of Mashpee will be demolishing the old bathrooms and constructing the new facility.
The association had previously received an estimate from the Town of Barnstable for over $500,000, Logan said, to construct new restrooms, but the association received bids far lower than that estimate and it will pay less than half that amount in what is the first of three phases of planned ballpark refurbishments. The Cotuit Kettleers range in fan attendance at 22 regular-season home games from June to August, anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 fans.
Remaining phases of construction include new outfield fencing, new third base-side or "home fans" bleacher grandstands, leveling and re-planting the outfield, new dugouts and much more. The current dugouts were constructed of basic cement blocks around 1960. A new courtyard for fans as well as a trophy display case are also some unique features planned as part of the nearly $1 million in renovations and upgrades.
Nine-year Kettleers Field Manager Mike Roberts - the former head baseball coach at the University of North Carolina and former athletic director at the University of Florida - is spearheading the fundraising for Lowell Park improvements and received as recently as last week a pledge of $25,000 from Dan Kraft, president of The Kraft Group, owner of the New England Patriots.
Approval of the fiscal 2013 budget did not come without some angst, however, as the association's budget committee made some recommendations that may end up costing the organization more than some short-term savings. One of the line items that fell to the budgetary axe was the stipend received by former association president Martha Johnston and Logan in their role as Cotuit Kettleer Yearbook editor and advertising director, respectively.
In 2003, the association voted to afford Johnston and Logan - or whomever was in charge of yearbook publication and advertising sales - 20 percent of the yearbook's advertising revenue in return for services rendered. Few would argue that in the past nine years the Kettleers' yearbook has grown to become one of the most professionally-respected and popular periodicals published on Cape Cod. It also raises well over $10,000 annually in pure profit for the Kettleers.
Johnston made it clear that without the stipend she no longer could afford to immerse herself into what amounts to be a year-long project to bring to fruition. Some board members argued that they, too, volunteer considerable time and effort yet do not receive any "stipend" to do so. Logan did not say whether he would continue to serve as a volunteer for the annual yearbook and Johnston remains on the board of directors.
Two meetings ago, board members got into a heated debate about the suggestion that the organization take out loans to offset the amount needed to begin construction as well as normal team and organization operating expenses. Roberts, who apparently facilitated the loans, clarified to the board last week that the organization did not have to begin repaying the loans for five years so it seemed premature to be stressed out about loan repayments.
"I don't know what everyone's squawking about," he said. "We need everybody 100 percent positive that we're going to get this done... we all need to be on the same page."
The Kettleers are going to sell old game-worn jerseys as one way to help raise funds and in May 2013, Roberts said, the organization should be receiving a "six-figure check" from an anonymous donor in California.