DERBY — Boston’s Fenway Park has its Green Monster.
And soon Derby’s Leo F. Ryan sports complex may have a “Red Monster” to fit the school’s color and its Red Raider mascot.
At least that’s the hope of Superintendent of Schools Matthew Conway, who explained how a retaining wall for the relocation of the high school baseball field can be split in two with seating in between.
“It would make it one of a kind if not the only one in Connecticut,” Conway told the Baseball Field Relocation Committee during their Jan. 30 meeting.
But it can only happen if the earth complies with the architect’s hope of moving the baseball field onto the current girl’s softball field. Extending that field for baseball requires digging about 35 to 40 feet into the hill behind the softball field’s home plate, Conway said. A retaining wall would have to be constructed.
“What I would like to do is ask the architect to consider building the retaining wall into the design of the stadium,” Conway told the committee. “We could do the wall in two steps and maybe have seating in it.”
If that happens the wall could become the home run fence line.
“This is the best option,” added Rob Hyder, who spent the past four years involved with the city’s Little League program. “It’s the least disruptive.”
And the committee bought into the proposal voting to send it to the Board of Aldermen for approval. They will consider the matter at their Feb. 23 meeting. If they approve it they could appoint a building committee to oversee the project.
“This is a home run for everyone,” said Carmen DiCenso, president of the Board of Aldermen. “The softball field could go between the football field and the track. Everyone would still be in this complex. No one would have to move.”
Unless it is determined that the earth won’t comply with just a retaining wall.
In that case, the committee added an alternative suggestion— moving the high school baseball field to the adjoining Nutmeg Avenue complex where it would replace the fields used by Little League and Pop Warner.
All this comes as a result of a two-phase renovation of the Ryan Sports Complex. One stage involves using a $2.9 million grant from the state to re-build the football field and running track and cover it artificial turf.
However, those changes cut into the existing baseball field requiring it to move. The relocation committee was created to oversee that move, and a building committee was appointed to oversee the turf field constructions.
Initially, the city sought a $5 million grant but got just the $2.9 million.
As a result, Conway cut out demolishing and rebuilding the existing clubhouse.
And that was the case until Jan. 26 when Joan A. Payden became a game changer. Payden is the chief executive officer of Payden & Rygel, a $110 billion asset management firm which has offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, London and Paris.
Payden’s late father, Joseph, was the valedictorian of Derby High’s 1915 graduating class. He went onto became a World War I fighter pilot serving in Britain, a Yale University engineering graduate, and eventually the CEO of Union Carbide Java in Indonesia.
Her father played football and baseball at Derby “but the principal love of her father and (late) brother Bill was baseball,” Conway said. “Ms. Payden wants this done right. She’s very adamant that we don’t cut corners. She wants a state of the art facility for baseball and the field house.”
Conway said the two projects are being conducted separately.
The city has asked interested architects to respond with qualifications by Feb. 17 for the turf fields project.