For Tim and Mike White, Westbrook has always been home. The brothers grew up here, went to school here, and have done business here for many years in construction.

“Westbrook has always been good to us,” Mike White said this week.

So when White Bros., a division of the Lane Construction Co., discovered it had a 14-acre patch of land off Small Hardy Road it wasn’t using, Mike White said, finding a way to use it to benefit the community seemed like the right thing to do.

“We thought it would make some sense if we were to approach the city about some of the idle land,” he said.

That generosity led to the beginnings of a new athletic field project that will, when complete, fill a need for city youth that has existed for years, at a cost of next to nothing to the taxpayer, city officials said.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a measure to lease about 10 acres of that land for $1 a year for the next 25 years. The council also voted to hire Sebago Technics to draw up official plans for the field project, and secure permits from the Planning Board and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The council must give both measures a second reading at its next meeting before making them official.

This week, City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the engineering firm will charge the city $26,400 to do the work, but several donors have already come forward to contribute to the fee. Bryant declined to name any of the donors, but said he expected the donations to cover the cost completely.

The city identified a need for such fields in its 2000 Comprehensive Plan, and later in a 2009 Draft Open Space Plan. City Council President Brendan Rielly said Monday the reports speak to the lack of recreational facilities in what is commonly referred to as the northern part of the city.

“There has been a big need on that side of the city for athletic fields for a while,” he said.

David Soucie, vice president of the Westbrook Soccer League, who attended the council meeting, said the league has about 150 players in its travel program, and 250-300 players in its recreational program. Right now, the league has to make use of school fields, which sometimes requires a complex juggling of schedules.

“We need to have a consistent area where kids can practice and kids can play,” Soucie said.

Mike White said he and his brother, who died in December, acted in response to that need. The property, he said, is part of land the company uses to operate a quarry near the Windham town line. While it serves as a buffer between the quarry and nearby residences, he said, it is not part of the quarry itself, and is not used by the company.

A rough draft of a plan for the area includes two fields, each approximately 390 by180 feet, with a 10-foot area around the edges for players and spectators. The fields, according to the preliminary report, are geared toward soccer, but may also be used for lacrosse, field hockey and football. The plan also allows for a parking lot to be built, but the number of spaces is not specified.

Rielly praised White Bros., not only for donating the land, but also for offering to grade it, build the parking lot, and do other work to prepare it for athletic use, a total effort that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Without that work, quite frankly, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.

Bryant said the only thing the city will need to do is spread and seed loam, and even that will be virtually free. The city has had a significant stockpile of free loam ever since it bought land from the DeWolfe family to build the middle school, Bryant said.

Bryant said he hopes the permitting process would be finished by Thanksgiving, which would mean White Bros. could work on the project through the winter, making it ready for loam and seeding in the spring. After a season of growing, Bryant said, the city is hoping to open the field by the spring or summer of 2013.

On Monday, the council was enthusiastic about the prospect. Councilor John O’Hara called Mike White and his brother “a couple of great citizens who rose to the challenge.”

Councilor Victor Chau said he was pleased to see a private company making such a generous offer to the public good.

“Having corporate involvement in the city is great,” he said. “I’m very proud to be part of this moment right now.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.