OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The Ballpark will be home to another baseball team next summer.

The Old Orchard Beach town council unanimously accepted a letter of intent with officials from Lowell, Mass., Tuesday night to bring a New England Collegiate Baseball League team here next summer. The final agreement will be signed at the Oct. 5 council meeting.

“This is what I actually was hoping for,” said Doug Ayotte, general manager of the Lowell All-Americans. “Knowing that we couldn’t come to an actual agreement to put something down in writing as far as a final document, to have the unanimous support of the town council is exactly what we were looking for. I don’t see any obstacles.”

The deal calls for Lowell to pay a $10,000 user fee and a nonrefundable $2,000 security deposit. The Ballpark will still be available for other baseball events.

Ayotte said NECBL officials gave their approval for the move on Monday, noting the location would provide an ideal rival for the Sanford Mainers, who have played at Goodall Park for nine seasons. The teams played a game at The Ballpark last summer, drawing over 900 fans. Ayotte said Lowell averaged about 150 fans each home game.

The NECBL is a 12-team, wooden-bat league that attracts college players from across the nation. They live with host families and play 42 games in the regular season.

Members of the Ballpark Commission had been negotiating with Ayotte since the NECBL season ended in August. He also considered sites in Connecticut; Nashua, N.H.; and Portsmouth, N.H., but liked everything about The Ballpark and OOB.

“We did our due diligence the last four months,” said Ayotte. “If you look at it from a marketing perspective, for a fan base you have 10,000 residents all year, then you go to 150,000 in the summer. You have that second wave of people, like they have in Newport (R.I.).

“We’re still going to concentrate on the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach area as our major fan base, but having that addition can only be positive.

“The second thing that attracted us is the dedication that these people have shown in bringing this thing back to life. We aren’t a big-market operation, we don’t have a big marketing machine with tons of money behind us. We need the local community to adopt us as their hometown team.”

And that’s exactly what people associated with The Ballpark hope will happen.

“I really think this is the best fit for the community,” said Tom LaChance, the Old Orchard Beach High baseball coach, who led the volunteer effort that restored The Ballpark after years of neglect. “I think this is a great community to draw players from abroad when college kids start to look for host families.”

Jack Turcotte, the OOB town manager, said the NECBL fits with the community needs.

“The atmosphere around this collegiate league, where you essentially adopt a team and bring kids into a community, is at the moment in harmony with the philosophy of the Ballpark Commission,” said Turcotte. “The success the Sanford Mainers have had is very attractive to them.

“This gives the ballpark a purpose, gives it an identity, gives it a relationship with a team.”

The All-Americans had been in Lowell for 12 years. Last year they finished last in the Eastern Division with a 15-27 record.

Paul Crossman, chairman of the seven-member Ballpark Commission, said volunteer work continues to be done at The Ballpark.

“I think we’re in good shape,” said Crossman. “We’re starting to get the feel of a ballpark.

“We finished all the seats that were in distress, bringing our seating capacity to around 4,000. We purchased a scoreboard, which came with a (public address) system. The field is in immaculate shape, even after hosting about 100 games this season. The clubhouse is about 95 percent finished.

“We’re pretty much on par where we need to be to put a key in there and let the ballclub come in.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]