BIDDEFORD — Over 350 volunteers are expected at Waterhouse Field on Saturday to tear down the condemned bleachers at the iconic home of Biddeford High football.

Removal of the bleachers is a significant step toward the goal of getting Waterhouse ready to use in some capacity by the 2017 fall sports season, said Jim Godbout, president of the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association.

“With the (old) bleachers gone we can use the facility,” Godbout said, “whether that’s with no bleachers or temporary bleachers.”

“It’s always a goal to play our games there but we have to work through the feasability of that, whether it’s a temporary situation or a long-term decision,” said Biddeford School Superintendent Jeremy Ray. “No final decisions or confirmed decisions have been made.”

The field is owned by the non-profit Waterhouse Field Alumni Association and has been leased to the city for school use for $1 a year since 1973, and has been used for Biddeford High soccer games as well as football.

The deteriorating condition of the bleachers has been a concern for several years. After an independent study determined the bleachers were unsafe, Ray closed the facility April 11. End zone seating was closed by the city’s code enforcement officer last fall.

On May 1, an engineering firm hired by the school department unveiled a $6 million proposal to improve multiple athletic fields in the city. The plan targeted $2.5 million for Waterhouse Field that would include new bleachers, a larger, multi-sport artificial turf field, new lights and a new press box.

At this point no decisions on renovations at Waterhouse or how they will be funded have been made. The next step is determining how the three organizations – city, school and the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association – can best work together.

“How do we put together an organization or a structure so the field can be adequately maintained and who will have oversight over it?” said Mayor Alan Casavant. “Once that’s determined, then we can start to make decisions about the scope of the place; how many seats? Turf or grass? Should we expand the field?”

Regardless of the long-term outcome, Godbout and his crew of volunteers will help to cut the total cost of improving Waterhouse Field. Last Friday, Godbout and a small crew removed the old press box from the home field in hopes it can be used at Waterhouse in the future. The proposed plan put the price of a new press box at $110,000.

And the cost of demolition and removal of the condemned bleachers would have been over $40,000, based on initial contractor proposals, Ray said.

An online site to volunteer for Saturday’s bleacher demolition can be accessed at the Biddeford School Department website. Volunteers must sign a waiver prior to working.

Waterhouse renovations, however, won’t be an entirely all-volunteer effort.

“We couldn’t have (volunteers) build new bleachers because it would bring up liability issues,” Casavant said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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