A work in progress: Berkeley Oval field set to reopen soon

A work in progress: Berkeley Oval field set to reopen soon

Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey

CUMBERLAND – A town with an ongoing space crunch on its fields will soon get some relief.

Improvements at the Berkeley Oval on Martin Street, being done as a partnership between the Cumberland Highway Department and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Rhode Island, are expected to wrap up in the coming weeks.

Mayor Jeff Mutter said there’s no exact date for reopening, but said the field needs to be open this year. Officials are working on some details for an event celebrating its opening.

“The thought is bringing that full baseball field online will allow (the) field at Diamond Hill to be a multi-purpose field,” the mayor said. “It will give us more flexibility. It is a priority for us.”

Highway Supt. Frank Stowik and his team worked with Boys & Girls Club CEO Gary Rebelo and staff to get sod down last week, completing some work in the outfield and behind the first and third base lines. They’ll be working on the infield and pitcher’s mound soon.

“We are getting closer,” said Mutter. “We are working with soccer and lacrosse to make some improvements in the short-term.”

Stowik said remaining tasks include realigning foul poles, building the pitcher’s mound, seeding the left field and right field corners, and building the base sleeves.

Former Mayor Bill Murray said last year that he expected the field to open in the spring of this year.

The Valley Breeze reported last August that long-awaited lights had gone up at the Berkeley Oval baseball field, a big step forward for a facility shut down some 14 years ago after trace amounts of naturally forming arsenic were found in a section of soil.

Owners of Lincoln-based Eastland Electric made a significant donation of work and money in putting up the lights in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, which shares the field near its Martin Street headquarters. Eastland Electric owner Tom Miller said then that the work was a labor of love as part of a long-term relationship with the club.

There have been numerous delays over the years in getting the lights up and the field back in use, many due to actions by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The agency required some capping and other remediation measures, as well as redesigning the bases of the lights due to groundwater issues.

The Berkeley Oval field is located between Hope Global and the revamped Berkeley Mill, which has become a commercial hub and is expected to welcome a new brewery in the near future. Just beyond the Berkeley Mill is the Boys & Girls Club.

Much of this project, including the lights, moving the backstop to enlarge the field space, and adding fencing and other upgrades, is being funded through a $180,000 grant secured by the Boys & Girls Clubs through the Champlin Foundation in 2014. Also completed with that money was a new sprinkler system.

It wasn’t clear this week how much town money has been invested into the project.

Berkeley Oval is designed as a multi-purpose space, shifted enough to allow the 300 feet needed to accommodate soccer, football and lacrosse. In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, the field will be used by the McCourt Middle School baseball team and town recreation teams.

Town workers last Wednesday prepared to put down new sod behind the third base line at the Berkeley Oval. There are several more jobs to be completed at the facility before it opens to youth teams.