The Future of Doric

Club would turf field under long-term license to use facility

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A proposed license from the City of Cranston to New England Futbol Club to use the field at the park on Doric Avenue has caused a stir in the community as a contract nears finalization.

The deal would permit NEFC to use the field on certain evening hours and Sunday, which would still need approval by the City Council through a resolution, and put turf down for its league games. The area would then be fenced off and used only for NEFC and local teams like CLCF and Cranston East.

NEFC is based out of Massachusetts, but features a number of Rhode Island and Cranston athletes. Director of Administration Rob Coupe said that, while there was some outcry in the neighborhood, the trade-off to upgrade the facility is worthwhile.

Coupe said that these details are “likely,” but nothing is set in stone until the deal is signed.

“It’s not a sale, it’s not a lease, it’s a license to use the field,” Coupe said of the proposition. “I know the CLCF girls play their games there on Saturdays and that’s one of the things, they wanted to preserve the game field for them, and obviously, with Cranston East, it’s convenient for them to get over there and they wanted to preserve that.”

“Here’s a club that’s going to come in and spend, give or take, $1 million to put a turf field in there that will become property of the City of Cranston once it’s in there. It’s a good deal for the city. I mean, it’s a great deal for the city.”

While NEFC would have some exclusive rights under the proposed contract, the actual field would belong to Cranston even following the conclusion of the deal. The structure as of now would be a 10-year deal with a 10-year renewal. NEFC would cover the cost of about $1 million to install the turf. Cranston’s end involves paying to create additional parking and permit applications, but a potential license fee could cover a majority of that cost. NEFC would also erect light standards over the field.

In addition to the field being restricted, one of the two basketball courts would be re-purposed into extra parking. The other court and the new playground would remain in tact and accessible to the public. The walking track may lose a few feet, Coupe said, but that would also be public.

The idea didn’t sit well with Steven Ellis, 18, who was shooting hoops at Doric on Saturday afternoon next door to a pickup game. He said he has been coming to there his entire life, and that it is the “park to go to” for locals.

“This is the place to go to play basketball, to play lacrosse, take your son out to play catch,” Ellis said. “A lot of people wouldn’t like that [deal]. I wouldn’t like that either.”

John Patrick Donegan, 26, also took issue with the negotiations surrounding Doric. Donegan, whose letter to the editor is published in today’s edition, took issue with reduced public space and lack of “transparency.”

“It’s not like the City of Cranston is crawling in public parks,” Donegan said in a phone interview last week. “Having these open spaces is really an essential component of that life. We need more public space and green area. [And] information about this has been trickling out. I wasn’t able to attend the budget hearing last week, but a big issue I have is the transparency of it.”

Mayor Allan W. Fung took time Tuesday morning to address some of these issues in a call to the Herald. Fung said that all details of any negotiation had to remain private until they were finalized. He planned to hold a press conference on Wednesday at Doric Park to tell residents the outline of the contract.

“That’s how negotiations are conducted, and that’s what people elected me to do,” Fung said. “Once the terms are finalized, that’s when they’re subject to approval in the public sector by the city council. There are a lot of rumors being put out there that are not true.”

Fung echoed Coupe’s sentiments that the public-private partnership would be similar to the deal in place at the Chafee complex on Hope Road in the western part of the city. Cranston Western Little League installed lighting and a press box, among other amenities, and has a “right of first refusal” on the fields.

“This is one of the things that has been a hallmark, to find innovation so it doesn’t cost the taxpayers dollars,” Fung said. “Some of these leagues that are out there take it upon themselves to improve the fields and help us out. This isn’t a first, but it’s a first for the eastern side. We want to make sure we have great opportunities for the eastern side as well.”

Donegan was also concerned that the evening hours reserved for NEFC would interfere with practices for CLCF lacrosse, but Coupe said there would be little disruption, if any. Coupe added that, due to a constituent concern, the administration added to the proposed contract that only youth soccer would be played on the field.

Coupe said the chief issues with a men’s league is having games at night and players hanging around in the parking lot until late, but that would be barred under the deal. The field lights would also be shut off at 9:30 p.m.

Coupe added that NEFC would start working on the turf field in May to have it ready for games in September.

He said that parks and recreation director Tony Liberatore has plans in place to provide field space for CLCF and Cranston East as their seasons extend into the early parts of summer.

“Tony has plans,” Coupe said. “That’s what he does, he juggles teams and spaces. It would be a disruption this summer, but they’ll try to figure that out.”

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