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Softball leagues take swing at getting new lights for field in Londonderry

Union Leader Correspondent

September 21. 2017 1:28AM

LONDONDERRY — Softball fans who unsuccessfully lobbied the town in March for new lights at the Nelson Road field are taking a second swing for taxpayer funding.

Londonderry resident Jim Edwards, who has been playing softball in town since 1981, said this is the second year the leagues who utilize the diamond have attempted to replace the lights via a warrant article. Asking for up to $130,000, he called the Nelson Road facilities one of the key recreational resources in town.

“This field is used a lot,” Edwards told the Londonderry Town Council on Monday night. “This field starts about April 15 and usually until the end of October it’s used.”

The property hosts three leagues — Co-Ed, Fall and 50-plus — totaling 20 teams and 450 players six nights a week during the season. Approximately 75 percent of players live in Londonderry.

“The field is also used in the summer for some youth softball tournaments occasionally and we would like to use it for some other adult softball tournaments, but we’d need to have the lights improved to do that,” Edwards said.

Players have called for more durable, higher light poles. The current eight structures are only 40 feet high instead of the standard 60 to 70 feet high, causing vision issues on the field.

“Lots of throws from the outfield go right into the lights as they come into the infield … it’s somewhat of a safety issue,” Edwards said. The poles are also made of wood, he added, and are reaching their expected lifespan of 40 years.

Londonderry voters on March 14 rejected a warrant article to spend $115,000 to replace the lighting system. Both the Town Council and the Londonderry Budget Committee did not recommend the project.

This year, the figures are higher.

To replace the eight wooden poles with metal structures of 60 and 70 feet holding 20 light fixtures, would cost an estimated $130,000.

Edwards recommended the bid from Qualite Sports Lighting of Hillsdale, Mich. Going by the Amateur Softball Association specifications, Qualite would charge $82,000 for materials and $48,000 to install the equipment.

The contractor is responsible for installing the light poles and fixtures while the leagues have offered to pay for the wiring. The estimated impact is a one-time, 4 cent impact on the tax rate.

Advocates tout the benefits — a reduction in energy and maintenance costs by as much as 50 percent, less glare for the players, and an extended warranty.

Edwards said he has enough signatures for a citizens petition at the upcoming town meeting.

With the exception of the lighting, Edwards said the grounds are well maintained and are one of the best softball facilities in the region.

The lights were first erected in the 1980s using donated telephone poles and fixtures. In the mid-1990s, the light fixtures were updated using the original 40-foot poles and a new 10-foot fence was installed around the outfield.

In the past decade, the leagues installed a new infield and added a warning track, and through donations constructed a terraced seating area behind home plate for improved spectator viewing.

Leagues that use the field have self-funded the significant improvements to the field.

“The point I guess to take away from this is that all this work was done basically by the leagues; very little taxpayer money has been used,” Edwards said.

Softball Outdoors General News Londonderry