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Press Box, Concession Stand at Maxfield Sports Complex Is a Slow Grow

  • The flat slab of concrete currently housing media at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. on Thursday, June 22, 2018 is the foundation of a future press box/concession stand. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Noah Crane, left, confers with Upper Valley Nighthawks' pitching coach Tom Hudon during a July 12, 2017, game at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Crane's promises to build a Maxfield structure housing a concession stand and press box have as yet gone unfulfilled. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • The flat slab of concrete currently housing media at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. on Thursday, June 22, 2018 is the foundation of a future press box/concession stand. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 23, 2018

White River Junction — Almost everything’s coming up roses for the Upper Valley Nighthawks at the moment. The third-year New England Collegiate Baseball League franchise is battling for the North Division lead and drew an announced, franchise-record crowd of 967 for its home opener. After seven home games, the club is averaging 486 fans per contest at the Maxfield Sports Complex, up from 332 for last season.

One thing that has not gone up yet, however, is the two-story building designed to house the team’s concession stand and press box. Nighthawks general manager Noah Crane has suggested future finish dates on more than half a dozen occasions since launching a public fundraising campaign early last year.

As of Wednesday, Hartford building inspector and fire marshal Michael Bedard said he had not received the proper revised plans for the building. Crane did not respond to a Friday email asking if he had sent Bedard the updated design.

The work done thus far is the pouring of a concrete foundation pad roughly 40 feet long and 12 feet wide and the placement of water and electrical hookups within it. Nighthawks staff, broadcasters and reporters sit at folding tables and under portable canopies atop the foundation during games.

Crane, a Woodstock High graduate and Lebanon resident who doesn’t yet draw a salary because his team isn’t profitable, said last week he is waiting to receive updated plans from an architect. He said in a May email that the concession stand and press box would be completed by mid-June. Earlier this month, he said he hoped to have it completed by July 1.

“We promised to build a press box, and we’re building one,” said Crane, who estimated last summer that the lack of concession revenue costs the Nighthawks, who have an annual operating budget of roughly $135,000, more than $30,000 per year.

“I never signed a contract saying it would be done by a certain date. It only hurts us as an organization, not the fans, the players or the product on the field. We can weather that, and we’ll be fine.”

The nonprofit Nighthawks announced on Jan. 31, 2017, that they were seeking to raise $25,000 to publicly fund half the cost of the building. The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation would match that amount if it was reached, the team said.

The Nighthawks website said the building would be town of Hartford property and promised it “will be used by the Hartford High School baseball and softball programs, the Hartford American Legion program and other groups.” Jeff Moreno, Hartford High’s athletic director and an individual donor, said last year that the Hurricanes booster club donated $5,000. He recently corrected the amount to $3,000.

Moreno said last year that he was “shocked” that the concession stand and press box was not built by the end of the high school spring season. He declined comment last week.

Crane acknowledged the “inconvenience” endured by the Hurricanes and White River Junction Post 84 teams, but he said the overall improvements the Nighthawks have made to Maxfield should outweigh the incomplete stand. Crane and his family paid for Maxfield’s lighting and bleachers. They also cover any losses incurred beyond the nonprofit organization’s annual operating budget, which can be written off on their taxes, Crane said.

“They lost out, but they didn’t fund this; they just donated a portion,” Crane said of the high school and Legion organizations. “If they or the town wanted it sooner, they should have paid for it and built it. Without us, this would be a park without lights that barely gets used. We’ve enhanced it to be one of the best in Vermont and New Hampshire. There should be some grace given when you look at the totality of what we’ve done.”

Crane said last year that the initial fundraising effort’s March 15 deadline was pushed back a month because only $15,000 had been raised. During an interview last week, he said the actual total raised by the extended deadline was $11,000 and that he and his father donated the remaining $14,000 to secure the Byrne Foundation money. Those funds have been “set aside and are sitting in an account” for construction use, Crane said.

A combination of unfavorable weather, erroneous and incomplete paperwork and miscommunication between Crane and the town left Maxfield without the concession stand and press box last year. The White River Junction Post 84 American Legion baseball team didn’t have it available for the Vermont state tournament.

With three weeks remaining in the 2017 season, Crane said that the concession stand and press box would be built after the campaign but before the ground froze. He said earlier this year that the plan was to have it completed by the 2018 season’s start. Most recently, he cited unpredictable weather and the difficulty in lining up contractors as the reasons why the building has not been finished.

The concession stand and press box’s original estimated cost was $50,000, but Crane said it now will require an additional $10,000 to $20,000 to complete. That’s in spite of a recent change to the design, which initially called for a first story constructed of decorative masonry. Crane said that feature was requested by the town of Hartford and that he recently persuaded officials to allow him to switch to an all-wood structure to save roughly $5,000.

Another way in which funds are being stretched, Crane said, is in hiring different building contractors for the structure’s components. He said area builder Trumbull Nelson quoted him $260,000 to compete the building from start to finish. Instead, he’s been trying to arrange donation and barter agreements with framers, electricians, roofers and plumbers.

“Lining those schedules up is hard,” Crane said, noting that initial excavation was delayed by weather and that finding someone to pour and shape concrete took more time than expected. “We were hopeful that we could get it done by now, and it didn’t work. I’m not in the building trade; I run a baseball team. This is something new to me.”

Asked why the fundraising project’s 64 donors shouldn’t be upset that their gifts haven’t yet produced a building, Crane said food options for fans are varied and plentiful with trucks and stands operated by local vendors. One offers hot dogs and pizza, he said, adding that there’s no demand for such staples as hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

“We have big issues in the world, and we’re discussing a (building) that doesn’t affect anyone but me?” Crane asked. “I have to scrimp wherever I can, because if I don’t, it comes out of my pocket. But we had 1,000 people here opening night, and none of them cared about the press box.”

Hartford Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hausler said he doesn’t have an expectation for when the concession stand and press box should be finished.

“I’m taking the high road,” Hausler said. “I look at all the cool stuff Noah’s doing to bring in baseball crowds, and if it takes a little time to create one of those improvements, that’s fine.”

Crane has mentioned wanting to install additional bleacher seats, replace Maxfield’s chain-link backstop with netting and, in an admitted stretch, erect a video board.

“If there’s stuff (Crane) wants to do, I’d work with him to make it happen,” Hausler said. “It might take some baby steps along the way, but I wouldn’t have any concerns about when those things might be done. It takes time.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.