The Brewer School Department wants to rehabilitate an athletic field that’s home to the high school’s baseball and field hockey teams, but a lack of funding stands in the way of starting work.
Eventually, the department would like Heddericg Field, which routinely gets too wet to use, to become the centerpiece of a multi-use sports complex with both artificial turf and natural grass surfaces, courts for tennis, pickleball and volleyball, and public bathrooms.
The school department wants the area to be a resource for the community as well as students, Brewer Superintendent Gregg Palmer said.
“When this project is completed, Heddericg Field is going to be a phenomenal complex, and we’re excited to get it done,” Palmer said. “It’s the next project on the list that strengthens the infrastructure in the school district.”
The field, which sits behind Brewer High School at 79 Parkway South, is named after Charlie Heddericg, a longtime Brewer baseball, basketball and football coach who was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. Heddericg, who also taught civics and history at Brewer High School from 1944 to 1971, died in 1990.
The lack of drainage is the field’s most obvious problem, as water sits on the field any time it rains and as snow melts, making it unusable during baseball season in the spring.
“The majority of our baseball games in the last few years have had to be played away or at Husson University, where we rent space,” Palmer said. “Our home games aren’t at the high school.”
The department also rents the baseball field at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, according to Brewer Athletic Director David Utterback.
Though the school department has been discussing the need to rehab the field since 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic and a $5 million renovation project at the high school put much of the work on the back burner.
While Heddericg Field has remained unusable, Palmer said Brewer’s other fields — including Coffin Field, which hosts softball and is located just above Heddericg Field, and Doyle Field, which is located across the street and is where football games are held — are in working order.
Though the field has seen small maintenance updates over the years, Palmer said the field hasn’t received the major work it needs.
Completing erosion control, drainage improvements and turf installation, and building tennis, pickleball and volleyball courts will cost $1.5 million to $2 million, Palmer said. The department is still “hundreds of thousands of dollars” away from beginning the first phase of the project.
The school department is looking to close that funding gap with help from local businesses, private contributions and grants, Palmer said, rather than put a financial burden on taxpayers.
Palmer said the department is also debating whether to do the work all at once or in stages. Either way, he said, addressing the field’s faulty drainage and installing artificial turf will be the first items to address, as those will make the space functional once again.
The department, however, was able to install new lighting at the field in the last year using funding from local businesses and assistance from the city.
“In a way, we’re already into restoring the field, but there’s a lot of work left to do,” Palmer said.
The department hopes to begin work in the spring to make it usable by fall 2024, the superintendent said.