By David M. Fitzpatrick
OF THE WEEKLY STAFF
In 1928, Walter Sargent conveyed to the Brewer Community and School Improvement Association a swath of land between Wilson and State Street, under the condition that it be forever used as a “community and school playground, with a preference for high school athletics.” In 1948, following the death of Irving “Dicky” Doyle, a local businessman who had served as the city’s fire chief from 1918 until 1943, and who was known as a champion of youth athletics, the city named it Doyle Field in his honor. In its 85 years of use, Doyle Field has been a community center. But although today the multi-use field has stadium seating for 1,500 and has seen an increase in events, the field is deteriorating. During wet weather, it becomes a mud pit that’s at best unusable and at worst unsafe. Football practices are canceled. The school department rents facilities at other schools for games. Events that could use the field go elsewhere. Many events don’t even consider Doyle Field. The Doyle Field Committee is launching a capital campaign to raise about $1.4 million to renovate the field. The lion’s share of that will be earthwork, drainage, and installing artificial turf. Next is a complex that includes a new press box, a concession stand, public restrooms, and locker rooms. Other expenses include chain-link fencing, possible energy-efficient lighting, and perhaps relocating or replacing the bleachers. “The entire thing, as we work through the fundraising components of it, will really dictate what we do and what we don’t do,” said committee member Jim Donnelly of Machias Savings Bank in Brewer. “It would be nice to have a facility there that matches the quality of the field that we’re going to build.” Despite lots happening in Brewer lately — many new and expanded businesses, the recent public-safety building, the new Brewer Community School and Performing Arts Center, renovations to city hall, and the waterfront development — Doyle Field has languished. But with the right work, it could become the city’s centerpiece. Jerry Goss, the former Brewer High School principal and a current city councilor, first brought the field’s condition to the council’s attention in 2008. Since then, the field has gone from about 12 to 15 events annually to around 60. Goss, along with Joe Cote from Cianbro, formed the committee and did a feasibility study to gauge the interest of local businesses in supporting the renovation fund-raising. The goal is to raise private money. But since the city maintains the field, the renovations will result in an estimated $15,000 annually in maintenance savings for the city. “Knowing that the community needs it, and that the use of the field could be extended further with an artificial surface, I think there’s a lot of passion by those who interviewed [for the study] — who played on the field or had children who played on the field,” said Cote. But Goss is quick to point out that the project isn’t just about football games. “This is not a football project,” Goss said. “This is a wellness and city project that will take care of adult activities: football, soccer, field hockey, and events that we don’t even think about now. When you come through Brewer, you either take State or Wilson — and what better message to give to people looking at the City of Brewer than to see that place lit up six nights a week, with healthy activities going on?” Right now, the field isn’t up to the task. The renovations will change that, putting a stop to canceling and relocating events — and making Doyle Field an ideal destination. “Then people will start thinking, ‘Well, what other kind of events can we get to hold there that would draw people to the City of Brewer that would benefit our business community?’” Goss said. With hopes that the new field will be ready for the 2014 season, the committee is investigating all fund-raising options, including selling naming rights to things like the stadium, the press box, and the concession stand. The current development plan is malleable; the committee is constantly revising to reduce costs and devise the best plan possible. But some pieces, such as the earthwork, are vital components. “[The field is] only as good as its substructure,” said Cote. “The drainage needs to be very good before the surface goes on… That’s key to the project, really.” Next comes the artificial turf, which is expected to last 12-15 years. Part of the fundraising will involve banking funds so that when the turf needs replacing, the money will be available — no starting over with a new fund-raiser. “The Brewer community is reinvesting in the future of Brewer, and we’re continuing to do that on a regular basis,” said Donnelly. “We have a vibrant, lively community, and we’re going to grow — and we’re going to grow in the right way.” To become involved in the committee or to learn how a business can invest in this renovation, contact Jim Donnelly at JDonnelly@MachiasSavings.com or Joe Cote at firstname.lastname@example.org.