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[March 14, 2014]
New house for Nicholson [The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. :: ]
(Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 14--METHUEN -- The city has lined up more than the $250,000 needed to use a state grant to build a new clubhouse at Nicholson Stadium and make other upgrades to the facility, a project that has been languishing for years.
Mayor Stephen Zanni said the communications giant Clear Channel, which owns billboards and radio and television stations across the country, has agreed to give the city its first 10 years of payments upfront in a lump sum, totaling $200,000, for a billboard on Interstate 93 that it plans to convert into a digital sign.
After 10 years, an annual payment schedule would kick in. Clear Channel would pay $25,000 per year in years 11 through 15 of the contract, $30,000 per year in years 16 through 20, and $35,000 per year for the remainder of the contract.
The City Council on Monday will consider the agreement.
That $200,000 will be directed to building the new clubhouse, a proposed 4,000 square-foot building on an existing foundation at Nicholson Stadium. Zanni also said the city is trying to finalize an agreement with a private entity for another $300,000 for the stadium.
"The sole funding will come from the grant and private money from the city," Zanni said. "That's how the clubhouse will be paid for." The funding from those two sources will supplement a a $500,000 Gateway Cities parks grant from the state awarded last year. The deadline for using the grant was this coming June 30, but the city asked for and was granted an extension until June 30, 2015, said Krista Selmi, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Several city officials and residents worked to build a new clubhouse beginning in 2007 and volunteer labor was used to pour the foundation and install plumbing on the stadium grounds. But funding dried up during the recession and the work stalled.
Plans for a new 4,000-square-foot clubhouse to be built on that foundation include separate boys and girls locker rooms, space for coaches, referees and trainers, a film room and a concession stand.
The new clubhouse would replace a decades-old structure of less than 1,500 square feet.
And in spite of the grant, announced in February 2013, work still had to wait a year while the city found $250,000. Zanni resisted calls to issue city bonds for the money, saying the work can be done without additional cost to taxpayers.
"The clubhouse will be done this year. That's a promise," Zanni said at Monday's School Committee meeting.
The city recently applied for a separate $400,000 parks grant from the state that, if awarded, would be used for additional upgrades to the stadium, including installing synthetic turf and rebuilding bleachers. State Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, D-Newburyport and state Reps. Linda Dean Campbell and Diana DiZoglio, both D-Methuen, said they have met with Richard Sullivan, the state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, about the grant application.
"We had a delegate meeting with the secretary and we're very optimistic," DiZoglio said.
The legislators said the city's high school renovation project, its securing private funding, and the work of the private Methuen Athletic Improvement Committee, which has been raising money for the stadium, all strengthen the grant application and give the project a sense of momentum.
"When city has a comprehensive approach supported by the public and the city government, it's favorable in the view of the secretary's office," Campbell said.
Zanni said he hopes the city can start requesting bids for the turf and bleacher work later this year, though those jobs may have to wait until next year.
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