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GM Gets OK for Possible NECBL Team in Lebanon

West Lebanon — The baseball diamond at Lebanon High School could be slated for some major upgrades with the possible emergence of Lebanon’s own collegiate baseball team.

The School Board on Wednesday night unanimously OK’d the start of negotiations between administrators and the New England Collegiate Baseball League to work out a contract that will allow for a potential Lebanon team to use the field in exchange for improvements to the playing facilities.

Noah Crane, a Lebanon resident who is the general manager of the Laconia Muskrats in the league, said that likely upgrades include new fencing around the entire complex, lighting, and seating — possibly a covered grandstand.

“I’d like to have it look old-fashioned,” Crane said before the board picked up the discussion.

Crane said the Laconia team draws an average of 400 spectators on a typical night, and as many as 1,000. The upgrades would be made with the intent to start the season in June 2014.

“I’ve always had it in my mind to have something where I live,” Crane said. “It’s just always been a question of facilities.”

Crane added that the Upper Valley is a much more “connected” community than the Lakes Region, where he has managed the Muskrats for the past four years. He said that the Muskrats would stay in Laconia, and that Lebanon’s outfit would be an expansion team.

“The connectivity here, the focus on family here, folks looking for things to do at night,” Crane said. “It gives us something that no one else is doing in the market.”

According to Crane, the league, which is nonprofit, is a developmental league for the best college baseball players from around the country. He said the players stay with host families, get a sense of the community, and more than 70 percent of them move on to play pro-ball of one kind or another.

“What they get is a taste of what minor league baseball is all about: long bus rides, playing in front of big crowds, and playing five or six nights a week,” Crane said.

“So it’s really a barometer for them to see if they want to play at that level.”

School Board member Hank Tenney had many questions for Crane, mostly concerning possible scheduling conflicts and the language of the contract, but in the end, he had warm words for the proposal.

“I personally feel it’s a great thing for us and the community to have something like this aboard, but I don’t want to jeopardize any of our other organizations and I don’t want to set precedence,” he said.

Business Administrator Jim Fenn said the contract would likely be for 10 years, and that the facility upgrades would need go through the city’s review process.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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