Newport City Council Approves Abbruzzi Sports Complex Skate Park

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NEWPORT – A skateboard park and basketball court will be added to the Abbruzzi Sports Complex and complement the existing Little League baseball field. The T-ball field now at the complex will be moved to nearby Miantonomi Park.

City council voted 4-2 Wednesday night to take the step after hearing passionate pleas for a skateboard park and equally passionate pleas to leave the T-ball field where it is.

Opponents of the plan argued that another location should be found for the skateboard park and the basketball court.

Scott Wheeler, the city’s superintendent of parks, grounds and forestry, told the council he had spent the past 20 years trying unsuccessfully to find a suitable location for a skate park until that time. location in the North End be found.

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Vice-President Lynn Underwood Ceglie and City Councilor Jamie Bova presented the resolution calling for council approval for a three-sports complex. They wanted to end the months-long public discussion of the pros and cons.

They got the support of City Councilor Angela McCalla and City Councilor Charlie Holder. Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and city councilor Elizabeth Fuerte opposed it. Councilor Kathryn Leonard was absent.

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“If we vote against there will be no skate park,” Ceglie said during the debate. “Come on. Who’s going to keep fighting for this? Skateboarding is a respected activity. Skateboarders need an outlet for their sport. We’ve been talking about it too much and not enough action. I’m sick of talking about it. many things and nothing ever happens. “

“Having all the sports in one complex will really create a good sense of community which will benefit the whole city,” said Bova.

This render shows where the proposed skate park would be built at the Abbruzzi Sports Complex in Newport.

“I did my homework asking kids and their families what they want and found overwhelming support for that – yes, they want all three,” McCalla said. “What I’ve heard loud and clear is that our kids need a place where they can do a lot of different recreational activities. Not all of our children are Little Leaguers; not all of our children are basketball players; maybe some of them can be skateboarders.

“If we could have found a place for a bigger and better skate park over the past 20 years, we would have found one by now,” Holder said. “If we don’t do it now, it won’t happen. I am ready to go. I agree with Councilor Ceglie – I’m sick of the debate.

Holder was responding in part to Fuerte, who argued that the Abbruzzi complex is not large enough to accommodate a skateboard park and basketball court. She wanted council to tell city staff to find another location.

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“It will be a mini skatepark and a mini basketball court,” she said. “We have to build it bigger and better. “

“We have some great pitches there right now for Little League and T-ball,” Napolitano said. “They have bathrooms there. They have food for the children after their games. Why have we invested in these areas and we can’t find another place for a skateboard park? Little League has been around for 50 years.

She said basketball and skateboarding would add to the “intensity” of uses in a densely populated area.

Friends of Newport Skatepark will now undertake the fundraising necessary to build the facility. Group members were hoping to get the company’s board approval in May this year.

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They were taken by surprise by the opposition they faced at the time, as council members voted unanimously to accept a $ 100,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Management in September 2020. ‘State to build a basketball court at the Abbruzzi sports complex.

If a basketball court is built there, there is no room for the T-ball court, according to Wheeler. But there would still be room for a skate park.

On Wednesday night, Newport City Council listens to arguments about a skate park project at the Abbruzzi Sports Complex.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, some members of the public urged the council to make a decision.

“It’s ridiculous to keep doing nothing,” said Tim Harrington. “Inaction is action. Do it now. Just do it.”

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But there are many who have encouraged skate park advocates to look elsewhere.

“My son is in Little League and I am a neighborhood resident,” said Christine Sullivan. “I think Braga Park would be the perfect place. Leave the baseball diamonds alone and go across town. “

Kevin Demello, father of four daughters and another resident of the neighborhood, took the opposite view. “It’s a great opportunity and it’s a great location for it,” he said.

The Aquidneck Land Trust purchased a conservation easement for the whole of Miantonomi Park in 2006 so that it could be preserved.

City manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. said he had had discussions with representatives of the Land Trust about building a T-ball field there. Under the current easement, only a temporary safety net would be allowed, he said. But they are discussing a modification of the easement that would allow a permanent safety net.

Chris Rosa, president of the Newport Little League, said volunteers wouldn’t be able to take down and put back a safety net for every T-ball game.

Bova successfully introduced an amendment to the resolution that calls for the creation of a T-ball field at Miantonomi Park before any construction begins at the Abbruzzi complex.

There are currently two baseball diamonds at the Abbruzzi Little League complex in the North End area of ​​Newport.

“We’ve never had a place of ours,” said Sid Abbruzzi, who has been involved in skateboarding for over 50 years.

The resort is named after his father, Louis “Duke” Abbruzzi, the coach who led the Rogers High School Vikings to a Division I baseball championship in 1971 and was a longtime Rogers coach.

Abbruzzi said he had already been before council with skate park proposals, like the one in Braga Park years ago that was rejected.

“On behalf of all skateboarders and sports fans, I say vote for the skate park in Newport, Rhode Island,” he concluded. “It’s more than late.”

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