Wrought iron fence for “ballpark” Ballfield
Ballfield is becoming a ballpark
Wrought iron-style fencing with an elaborate gate will help define a landscaping plan that brings meaning to the ‘park’ in ‘ballpark.’
by Macklin Reid
The final touches on what is being called “Tiger Stadium at Ciuccoli Field” will be undertaken this spring at the hardball field behind the Venus Municipal Building.
“It’s going to make a striking impact on the whole site, the trees and plantings, particularly in the spring and in the fall,” said Parks and Recreation Director Paul Roche. “In the fall the maples and oaks will be red and orange.”
If all that landscaping sounds costly, taxpayers will not feel the pinch.
“This is a private donation,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.
Donors behind the project at Steven and Liz Goldstone.
“A very important feature will be the iron fencing and the brickwork that follows — it runs alongside the field and creates an entrance into the field, somewhat reminiscent of Ballard Park,” Mr. Goldstone said Tuesday.
Mr. Goldstone, Mr. Roche and Bob Alicea of Ridgefield Babe Ruth discussed the plan Tuesday afternoon.
That evening Mr. Marconi, Mr. Roche and Mr. Alicea came before the Planning and Zoning Commission and got the commission to ratify some changes to a previously approved plan for the area.
Under the master plan for the rear of the Venus Municipal Building, the driveway between the Ridgefield Playhouse and Ciuccoli Field, where both the high school and Babe Ruth and baseball teams play, was to be realigned to increase the parking area.
That driveway realignment and parking expansion has been dropped.
“That was driven mostly by the possibility of Norwalk Community College’s renting space in the Venus Building,” Mr. Marconi told the commission.
That project was to be paid for with state grants. A grant did finance the first part of the parking lot expansion, which involved moving the skate park and redesigning parking layout at that end of the facility.
But a grant to realign the driveway and expand parking seems unlikely. “Grant money has become less and less a reality,” Mr. Marconi said.
State money will help with the aspects of the revised plan that the town had agreed to take care of — a sidewalk along the driveway, and site lighting. They will be financed from the Local Capital Improvement Project or “LOCIP” grant money that the state provides each year, and that the town regularly uses for sidewalk work.
The landscaping plan with its brick and iron fence, elaborate gate, and extensive plantings are the third phase of a larger plan that the town and Ridgefield Babe Ruth have been pursuing together for three years — somewhat in concert with Mr. Marconi’s parking lot project.
“The first phase was rotating the field, moving the field forward so we could fit everything on,” Mr. Alicea said.
Substantial brick dugouts, new bleachers, and a new backstop were put in. The town installed a watering system, and put in sod, and new clay for the infield.
In Phase II the brick concession stand with rest rooms was added, along with the pavers and walkways and a block retaining wall.
The Goldstones were involved in that as well.
The third phase will be aesthetics, amenities and landscaping. The sidewalk and fencing will run along the entire length of field, from near the basketball courts to Governor Street. People will enter through a gate with an overhead arch. There will be lighting added, and five picnic tables.
Plantings will include dogwoods, magnolias, oaks and maples. “We’re adding about 25 trees to the area, and lots of shrubs and perennials, so it’s going to have a park-like feel,” Mr. Roche said.
“Springtime, when baseball normally starts up, once these trees have a chance to take root, they’ll be flowering,” said Mr. Goldstone.
“Baseball, it’s a sport I love. And my own son played it a lot through Little League and Babe Ruth in Ridgefield, and I wanted to make sure that it stayed an important and central sport to our athletics here in town,” Mr. Goldstone said.
His son is playing for The Taft School in Watertown, now.
“I saw a terrific opportunity to rejuvenate and rebuild a beautiful park in a very important part of our town, in a central part of our town,” he said.
“I think if you think through most of the year, every resident goes through there on a fairly regular basis,” he said, “because of The Playhouse, or the government offices there. You’ve got the Yanity Gym, kids are playing basketball there.
“It just seems baseball is a spring and summer sport so people are finally getting outside. It’d be a great thing to be able to use it not just for baseball but for getting together,” he said.
“A place where not only kids and their parents can use it, but people either visiting the town offices, of visiting The Playhouse, or just walking through will get an opportunity to stop and sit there, at one of the picnic tables, or just along the wall there, and enjoy a soda and a hamburger, and have lunch,” Mr. Goldstone said.
During ballgames, the concession stand would often be open.
“I just think it’s going to be a real central gathering place,” he said.
Liz Goldstone is “not as big a baseball fan” as her husband, he said, but she is “a big fan of creating a park” and worked closely with Mr. Roche and Mr. Alicea on the plan.
“Liz put a lot into the choosing of the site amenities and the design of the landscaping and the layout of the park,” Mr. Roche said.
Ciuccoli Field, behind what some people still call “the old high school,” is named for the late Chick Ciuccoli, a town worker who lovingly cared for the field for many years.