FITCHBURG — A potential boost to restoration efforts for Crocker Field is included in the plan for the second half of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act appropriation from Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale.
The plan was referred to the Fitchburg City Council for approval and contains three major spending requests: $8 million for water and sewer infrastructure; $5.5 million to support the renovation of the Fitchburg Public Library (total cost estimated at $40 million) and $2 million to support ongoing efforts at field turf replacement, lighting and track improvements at Crocker Field. The proposal was referred to the Finance Committee for vetting and recommendation to the Council.
The water and sewer infrastructure programs will occur on Boulder Drive and Main Street and are entirely funded using ARPA monies.
The remaining two projects will benefit not only from ARPA funding, but from other funding streams. Funds from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grant, city bond efforts and fundraising will be used toward the library project. The Crocker Field project will be assisted with grants and fundraising and some of those efforts were detailed at the Fitchburg School Committee meeting held on Monday evening.
Thomas Lamey, treasurer for the Crocker Field Restoration Committee, spoke prior to the School Committee’s acceptance of a $250,000 of a grant from the National Football League Foundation Grassroots Program. The funding will be used towards the installation of a new artificial turf surface at Crocker Field.
Lamey, a former Fitchburg Superintendent of Schools, joked that it had been many years since he attended a Fitchburg School Committee meeting. He remarked at the beauty of the current meeting space in the recently renovated Municipal Building and commended the city on the investment of money into rehabbing the building. He stated, “Facilities do make a difference.”
It was an appropriate segue into the work that the Crocker Field Restoration Committee has undertaken for many years.
Information presented in a slide show by Lamey showed that the work of the committee is aligned within the City of Fitchburg and Fitchburg Public Schools with the goal of completing restoration efforts. The ultimate goal of the nonprofit is to enhance equitable access to Crocker Field for all Fitchburg Public Schools, the city’s youth leagues and the community at large.
Lamey noted this work is being done so as to center Crocker Field as the hub of an ongoing urban renewal effort of Fitchburg’s Upper Common neighborhood.
Restoration efforts will ensure that both the history of this important city landmark and its future will be secured. According to information from the group’s website, legend has it that Charlotte Crocker asked her husband and Fitchburg industrialist Alvah, to build a field where their son and other children could play safely.
That simple request planted the seed that would become Crocker Field. Planning and design began in 1917. In a letter to the City of Fitchburg dated Jan. 1, 1917 Crocker wrote: “In my opinion the public schools of the city require an adequate field in which the different out-of-door sports and contests, which count so much in the physical and moral development of our boys, can be held.”
Alvah Crocker hired the Olmsted Brothers Landscaping and Design Firm of Brookline, to design the park. The Olmsted Brothers were the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York, the Emerald Necklace in Boston and the landscape for the great Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
In May of 1925, the Cincinnati Reds played a benefit game to raise funds for a memorial to their manager West Fitchburg’s Pat Moran. In July, Paavo Nurmi, who participated in 1920, 1924, and later 1928 Summer Olympics winning nine Gold Medals and three Silver Medals, performed at Crocker Field.
While touring Crocker Field, baseball legend, Babe Ruth asked Athletic Director Clarence Amiott, “What professional team plays here?” to which Mr. Amiott replied, “The Fitchburg High School teams.” The field has been the site of many of the Fitchburg-Leominster Thanksgiving Day football classics.
While preserving the history of the city and honoring investments of the past were part of the impetus to restoring the field, Lamey noted that Crocker Field is an important part of the City’s overall efforts towards redevelopment and that the field was integral to solidifying its place as an economic and cultural hub for the City.
DiNatale agreed, indicating that this is why his ARPA committee viewed this project favorably for public funding, noting that Crocker Field is an important link in the chain of Main Street redevelopment.
Firefighters and police officers get promotions
Among other Council business, the following promotions and appointments were recognized: Permanent full time Firefighters for the city Ryan M. Preville, Patrick Swenson and Seth Viles; Firefighter John Girouard to Provisional Lieutenant; Lieutenant Jude Lambert to provisional captain; Captain Anthony Castelli to provisional deputy and Permanent Deputy Dante Suarez to acting as provisional fire chief.
Special Police Officers for the City who were appointed and sworn in are: Sgt. Michael Turner and Officer Elijah Weiss. Turner and Weiss work for Fitchburg State University, but under an agreement with the city, are appointed special police officers. This affords the city the opportunity to call upon these police officers in assisting the city with policing efforts in and around the college.