Many hands make light work, as evidenced by this community effort to remove worn out and unsafe bleachers from Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field. About  200 people gathered to do their bit to help the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association get it done. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Many hands make light work, as evidenced by this community effort to remove worn out and unsafe bleachers from Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field. About 200 people gathered to do their bit to help the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association get it done. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — One of the volunteers called it a new beginning for Waterhouse Field. And so even though the task on Saturday was to dismantle old, unsafe bleachers, those doing so were looking ahead, to when Waterhouse Field will once again be the venue for Biddeford’s legendary football matches, for high school graduation ceremonies and more.

Folks from across Biddeford and beyond came together to dismantle unsafe and worn out bleachers form Waterhouse Field Saturday — a gift which will undoubtedly  make the replacement  project a bit less expensive. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Folks from across Biddeford and beyond came together to dismantle unsafe and worn out bleachers form Waterhouse Field Saturday — a gift which will undoubtedly make the replacement project a bit less expensive. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Tiger Pride — and orange — was in abundance on Saturday.

The bleachers were deemed unsafe by engineers earlier this year and the field, which was first used in 1929, was closed.

Phil Laverriere was among those doing his bit Saturday, helping dismantle the old bleachers at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Phil Laverriere was among those doing his bit Saturday, helping dismantle the old bleachers at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

City and school officials are working together to forge a way forward and the decision-making process is ongoing.

Folks have recognized that not only are the bleachers unsafe — hence Saturday’s volunteer removal effort — but there is a significant dip in the field.

As well, said Mayor Alan Casavant, who was among those removing bolts from the old wooden bleachers, the field is currently not wide enough for tournament action for lacrosse and some other sports. There are other decisions — like whether the field should be grass or turf to be made as well.

Travis Edgerton, 9, carries parts of an old bleacher seat across Waterhouse Field Saturday, where the wood was being stacked and is  eventually destined to be reclaimed. He and about 199 others — young, old and in between — gathered at the field to get the old, unsafe bleachers down. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Travis Edgerton, 9, carries parts of an old bleacher seat across Waterhouse Field Saturday, where the wood was being stacked and is eventually destined to be reclaimed. He and about 199 others — young, old and in between — gathered at the field to get the old, unsafe bleachers down. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Those with roots in Biddeford  — and some in communities nearby — are determined that fans will soon be watching the action and cheering for Biddeford — or their rivals — at Waterhouse Field.

About 200 of them turned out Saturday to remove the old, unsafe bleachers. 

They did so in an orderly fashion, with an army of folks in hard hats armed with power tools swarming over the old bleachers, taking them down, while another army carried the old wooden seating away, where it was stacked neatly for reclamation.

Young, old and in between, they were all there, showing their Tiger Pride.

Laura Walton and her husband Dennis were among the army of volunteers on the field around 9 a.m.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Laura Walton. A 2002 graduate of Biddeford High School, she said she and Dennis have six children in the Biddeford school system — daughter Sydney, who will graduate next month, played soccer on Waterhouse Field.

“This is what happens when Biddeford gets together,” she said, surveying the volunteer workers. “This is truly what Biddeford is all about. I am glad to witness this.”

“There are a lot of memories here,” said former footfall coach Ron Cote, among those who turned out to work.

Current football coach Brian Curit said a lot of his players were on the field, volunteering.

“(This) gives you an idea of the spirit here,” said Curit. “And what this field means to generations and generations.”

Generations — and communities, plural. Halfway up the bleachers, Biddeford resident Phil Laverriere was busy knocking out pieces of wood still attached to the metal bleacher frames after the seating boards had been cut out. His buddy, Ernie Huot, paused to speak with a reporter.

Huot, 87, hails from across the Saco River and is an unabashed Thornton Academy Trojans supporter.  But he and Laverriere are friends and the two walk together every week at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco. And he and Jim Godbout, president of the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association and organizer of the volunteer day, once were neighbors. And although a Saco resident, Huot  attended St. Mary’s School n Biddeford for eight years, he explained. So there are community ties, here along the Saco River.

“I volunteer while I can,” he said.

Travis Edgerton, 9, was busy carrying boards across the field.

Will he play on Waterhouse Field?

“Probably, my brother plays on this field,” he said as he continued on with his task.

Godbout, the organizer, said the all-volunteer effort was put together in less than a week. School Superintendent Jeremy Ray has said it will save about $40,000.

“This shows you a little bit about the community; the community comes together to stand for each other,” Godbout said.

He said the next phase of the campaign is for the city and School Department to invest capital in the project. 

The alumni association has raised funds over the years, but these days, costs for a major renovation are beyond what the organization can muster, he said.

Estimates by the Weston & Sampson, the engineers that looked at Biddeford’s sports fields, put the cost to renovate Waterhouse Field at upwards of $2.5 million — subject to change on amenities chosen, like  whether the field remains grass or is converted to turf, and the number of bleacher seats installed.

The next step in the process, said Ray in an interview last week, is to form groups to make decisions going forward.

“We need to look at the field study that we have and develop a group of individuals to begin making some decisions about what will be the first steps in the process,” Ray said.

On the field Saturday, the “can-do” attitude was fully in force.

“This is a new beginning,” BHS Athletic Director Dennis Walton said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected] Staff Writer Alan Bennett contributed to this report.



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: