A rendering of the Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex. Courtesy of the Town of Brunswick

The Brunswick Town Council on Monday night approved extra funding for the new Midcoast Athletic and Recreation Complex, which is expected to break ground in August.

The council approved $1.67 million for the first phase of the complex, which will include eight pickleball courts, a skatepark and a walking trail at Brunswick Landing beside the Recreation Center. The amount is $550,000, or 49%, higher than what was originally budgeted.

Sally Costello, the town’s director of economic and community development, said the increase was due to higher construction costs and higher bids from construction companies.

“It’s a very difficult construction climate,” she said.

Prices rose since the budget was crafted last year and Costello said construction companies are booked this time of year and have fewer crews available, further driving up costs. When the town put the project out to bid in March and required work to be completed this year, it received no offers. Costello said the construction timeline was extended to next year, which resulted in three bids, one as high as $1.8 million.

The town is expected to sign an agreement with the low bidder, Topsham-based Crooker Construction, which is expected to complete construction by June 2024. Crooker has worked on the new Morse High School in Bath, L.L. Bean’s new corporate office and event center in Freeport and the new Edward Little High School in Auburn.


The extra money for the recreation complex will come from several sources, including $250,000 from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund included in federal coronavirus relief, $150,000 from Bowdoin College’s annual contribution to the town, $125,000 in extra federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant money and $100,000 from town recreation fees.

Costello emphasized the extra money will not come from town taxes or loans. The base sources of funding include $500,000 in Land and Water Conservation Fund grant money, $500,000 in recreation fees and $45,000 in private contributions.

Councilors unanimously supported the extra funding, saying the complex will be an asset and could help attract housing, hotels and businesses to the Brunswick Landing area. Later construction phases call for an aquatics center, ice rink, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer fields and a playground.

“This is without question in my mind one of the greatest opportunities I’ve seen,” Councilor David Watson said. “The economic potential, the health potential … You want to hit what is important for our future as a community? That’s it. Family, health, recreation, lowering our taxes.”

About 75 members of the Midcoast Maine Pickleball Association and 20 members of the Maine Skateboard Association packed council chambers to support the funding increase. The groups have pledged $25,000 and $30,000 in donations, respectively, to the complex.

Rick Powell, the pickleball association’s vice president, said membership has soared to about 350 in the last two years. He said players from as far away as Augusta and Portland use courts at apartment complexes and the Recreation Center in Brunswick Landing, among other locations in the Midcoast.


“We desperately need additional courts,” Powell said. “Pickleball in Brunswick is already an economic driver in the area. … By approving this spending, you have the opportunity to positively affect the overall health of people in the greater Brunswick area.”

The new pickleball courts will cost a nominal fee to use; Costello projected that would raise about $21,600 in revenue a year against $6,000 in annual expenses for the complex. There will be no fee to use the skatepark or walking trail.

Costello said the town is applying for a $50,000 grant from T-Mobile for the complex and staff will seek out donations from individuals, businesses and organizations.

“We’re going to be constantly looking for funds,” she said.

Council Chairperson James Mason said while he supports the complex, he was wary about the cost increase.

“I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say there’s no public tax increase on this,” he said. “The projects that are not going to get funded because we’re using the money that is being otherwise allocated for this are going to be impacted.”

Mason looked ahead to the next phase of construction, which calls for a synthetic turf field, grass field, two basketball courts, two tennis courts, a playground and a concession/restroom building. The budget compiled last year estimated that would cost about $5 million; Mason wondered if the cost would rise by a million or even two million based on the construction market.

“That’s difficult to say,” said Jason Pollard, of Portland-based CHA Consultants, which is working with the town on the complex. “Market conditions are a different animal these days.”

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