By KAITLYN NAPLES
One of the oldest operating athletic fields in the country, Muzzy Field, is getting closer to getting what is expected to be a $2 million facelift when all of the renovations are complete.
A total of seven contractor interviews were conducted last week, and Park Director Ed Swicklas said a company hired to do the job is expected to be announced in September.
The field was donated to the city in 1912 by Parks Commissioner Adrian Muzzy, and hasn’t been renovated since 1981, Swicklas said.
“In 2014, it will be 100-years-old; it’s a significant part of Bristol’s history,” he said. “This is something that’s needed.”
When everything is completed, the project is expected to total about $2 million, however the Parks Department has $1 million in its budget this year for part of the renovations. One of the major renovations is to make the front entrance of the field more aesthetically pleasing, Swicklas said.
“We spent $7 million on Rockwell Park, and the area has become nicer looking, so we want to make the park fit in with that,” he said, adding that the park isn’t as noticeable as it should be, which will be corrected once there is a better entrance.
For the front entrance, the renovations called for are to redesign the existing concrete entrance, and include seating, site furnishings, landscaping, a vehicle drop-off area, flag pole, sidewalks to link with Rockwell Park, lighting that matches Rockwell Park’s, and new walkways.
Some of the other renovations needed are to replace existing field lights with energy efficient bulbs, and replace the football scoreboard; install an irrigation system; consider a new concession stand to be built behind third base, and shifting curbing and fencing for new sidewalks, lights and drainage.
Muzzy Field is a significant landmark in the city, and has been the focus of a book that came out in 2009. Doug Malan, now 36, of Newington, wrote “Muzzy Field, Tales of a Forgotten Ballpark,” a piece of writing he worked on for four years. Malan moved to Bristol to take on a job at ESPN and ended up discovering Muzzy Field and was stunned by its beauty.
“I’m originally from the midwest, and if I had to describe a typical New England baseball field, it would be Muzzy Field,” Malan said. “It has that old New England charm to it.”
Malan said he thinks renovating the field won’t hinder its integrity or beauty, but enhance it.
“I believe what will happen will be to maintain the integrity of the field, and continue to treat it as the treasure it is,” Malan said. He added that from his experiences in talking to Bristol officials and field users, that the city would do its best to continue to improve the field, and not let it be demolished and used for developments.
The second half of the money needed for renovations is expected to be approved in next year’s budget, Swicklas said. A contractor for the renovations is expected to be announced this month.
The Bristol Red Sox played all of their home games from 1973 through 1982 at Muzzy Field, and baseball legend Babe Ruth hit the first home run out of the city’s field. Muzzy Field is used by the American Legion Baseball team, and the three high schools.
By KAITLYN NAPLES