Hartford Complex Awaits Improvements to Be Ready for Baseball

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2016 12:36:48 AM
Modified: 4/23/2016 12:48:33 AM

White River Junction — Upper Valley Nighthawks general manager Noah Crane isn’t exactly worried. Neither is Tad Nunez, director of Hartford Parks and Recreation.

But with 48 days left until June 11’s opening day, the first for the Upper Valley’s New England Collegiate Baseball League franchise, there still are plenty of loose ends to tie up.

Maxfield Sports Complex, which will host 22 Nighthawks home games through Aug. 1, still is without bleachers, lights and a press box — all of which Crane said should be ready by the time his team visits the Vermont Mountaineers in Montpelier three days before the team’s home opener.

But the bigger issues over the last few weeks have been parking and traffic concerns, mostly due to the lack of accessible parking at Maxfield and the absence of a left-turn lane from southbound Route 5 into the complex.

According to Nunez, Hartford is in the process of contracting out the construction of the turn lane into Maxfield. Some of that decision was based on the anticipated influx of traffic heading to Nighthawks games this season, which should draw an estimated 300 cars per contest. Nunez said the turn lane would be installed, whether the Nighthawks were involved or not.

“We’re planning to start construction this summer,” Nunez said. “We’re hoping to be done in the fall by soccer season. … It won’t interfere (with Nighthawks traffic). At that time of the night, the road must be open both ways. It’s a state highway. … People will be able to go to Hartland and back. And cars will turn in and everyone will get to the game.”

In the meantime, with the Nighthawks hoping to draw around 600 people per game this season, police officers will be used to coordinate traffic.

Until the parking lot is filled, that is.

Crane and town officials will meet on May 4 to discuss an overflow parking plan in the event that Maxfield’s lot, which can accommodate about 235 cars, is be enough.

Crane said he has contacted officials at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center, which is nearby off Route 5 from the field, about taking excess cars. If that is OK’d, the team would rent a shuttle bus to bring fans to and from the parking lot.

“I’m not sure we’ll have 600 cars. We can’t accommodate that many. Probably more like 300 or so,” said Crane, who grew up in Woodstock, played baseball in high school and now lives in Lebanon.

“I think we’ll be able to accommodate that. Any overflow, we’ll just end them down to UVAC. We’ll make it work. If parking is an issue, it means we’re drawing a lot of people. It’s a good problem to have. I’m not concerned about it.”

Most Nighthawks home games will start at 6:30 p.m., so as far as traffic is concerned on Route 5, Crane said that the time of day works in their favor.

“I think the road can handle it,” he said. “People aren’t coming down a blind turn. And the time of day people are coming to facility is past the rush hour standpoint, between 6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. We can manage it well. It’s not a heavy traffic road. Not like people will be waiting to make left turns.”

Beyond the UVAC parking lot, however, both Crane and Nunez acknowledged that parking may need to be addressed down the road.

“If we could find a way to get more spots, that’d be great,” Crane said. “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Still, the lack of lights and bleachers has Crane watching the clock.

The Nighthawks, coordinated through the town, have leased stadium lighting from Musco Lighting Company for 10 years, requiring a letter of credit from Crane in order to make the long-term financial commitment. Now, both the stadium lights and bleachers are ordered and on their way, Crane said, and will take only a few days to install. Just another added item to the to-do list before Nighthawk players arrive in the beginning of June.

“I’m confident things will get done,” Crane said. “Both the town and I are working to make this happen. We’ll be ready to go June 11.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or at 603-727-3306.

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