City officials are still in talks to relocate Meriden soccer fields for hospital project

MERIDEN – The city and Hartford HealthCare remain in talks over relocating two soccer fields adjacent to MidState Medical Center on Lewis Avenue to allow for construction of new medical office buildings.

The Meriden Soccer Club continues to use the fields because plans to build on the site appear stalled for now as the city looks for an alternative field site.

“We’ve been talking about the site,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “There is no firm plan in place, nothing on the record right now. They need a temporary and more permanent plan in place. ”

The soccer club intends to continue using the fields “until MidState tells us they are ready to start their work,” according to league President Joe Scaramuzzo.

“We stayed off of (the fields) last season to perform some maintenance and give a chance for grass to grow back,” Scaramuzzo said by email this week. “We were deferring maintenance because of the original timetable proposed by MidState, but as the timetable seems to be getting drawn out we really felt we had to get the surface in order to provide a safe field for our kids to play on.

“Field time on full-size… soccer fields is actually tough to come by in the city,” Scaramuzzo added. “So we have no choice but to use the fields especially in the spring season… The lack of a real timetable on the relocation is unfortunate. We had plans to invest in and develop the MidState fields and facility but the pending move has the club sort of stuck in limbo. ”

Hospital officials are discussing possible sites with City Manager Tim Coon, Economic Development Director Joseph Feest and Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bourdon.

“The city and MidState have been continuously working together on the soccer field and we hope to have some plans soon,” Feest said in an email this week.

Representatives from Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of MidState Medical Center, did not return requests for comment.

The field site is technically owned by MidState, but the city has a 99-year lease for the property. The city required the old Veterans Memorial Medical Center to construct the fields as part of the approval for the new MidState hospital back in the 1990s because construction of the hospital led to the city losing two baseball fields and one soccer field.

MidState contacted the city in 2019 about its plans for a new medical facility and agreed to pay for a study looking at field relocation options.

Meriden engineering firm BL Cos. was hired to complete the study in 2019.

Bourdon said three locations were considered – Washington Park, Ceppa Field, and a privately owned vacant lot at 525 Kensington Ave. with 30 total acres.

BL’s report found that it would be much cheaper and easier to repurpose existing city parks locations instead of developing new facilities on unused private lands, according to Bourdon.

The challenge was that the park sites already host youth sports activities and relocating them to other park sites was “ultimately a game of musical chairs in which one group was going to be left without a seat when the music stopped,” he said.

Bourdon’s understanding is that Hartford HealthCare is ultimately responsible for the costs of relocating Meriden Soccer Club to a facility that is equal or better than what they now have at MidState.

The Meriden Soccer Club uses one full-size field and a half-sized field for games and practices during the fall, spring and summer seasons.

The Meriden Soccer Club’s board has spent between $ 70,000 and $ 100,000 of the club’s money on improving the MidState fields in recent years, including installing new sod, Scaramuzzo told the Record-Journal in 2019.

The club also turned an abandoned dog kennel on the property into a concession facility with bathroom, a meeting room and storage space.

“Our club needs to continue to grow,” Scaramuzzo said this week. “Our enrollment is rebounding nicely after Covid. It seems that post-Covid we have players coming out in droves. I literally get new requests to add players to our teams on a daily basis. We are basically a year round operation with one of our most difficult commodities to come by being field space. Not only do we compete with other youth sports programs for space, which is a great problem to have, but there are out-of-town programs also using space in Meriden which further complicates things. ”

Project status

Meanwhile, renovations have been ongoing at the hospital.

The hospital filed a Certificate of Need in April 2019 to add three new operating rooms to meet increased patient demand since it opened the Connecticut Orthopedic Institute in 2017. MidState now has 15 operating rooms.

The $ 26 million expansion and renovation is separate from MidState’s longer-term plans to build the medical office buildings on the land used by the soccer club.

The medical office building for practicing physicians and outpatient services would be in direct competition with Yale New Haven Health Services’ planned health care facility in the former Macy’s anchor store at the Meriden Mall, across the street from MidState.

“My understanding is that once Yale announced their plans to move into the vacated Macy’s area of ​​the mall that created a renewed sense of urgency for MidState,” Scaramuzzo said. “Parks and Rec Director Chris Bourdon has been the only entity to provide me updates recently but last I heard the negotiations were not very active. Chris has been great to work with and I believe he advocates well on behalf of our club. ”

Scarpati said Hartford HealthCare’s plan to build the physician office buildings was put on hold for the near future.

City Planner Paul Dickson said no building plans have been filed with the city.

Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at mgodin@record-journal.com.

Leave a Comment

BIELSKO1