The Town Council allowed the East Greenwich Little League to build a set of lights, and night baseball will come to Cragan Field this spring.
The council voted unanimously Monday night to authorize Town Manager William Sequino Jr. to negotiate a revised agreement with the East Greenwich Cemetery Corporation, owner of the ballfield’s property, allowing construction of lights at the field.
The longtime agreement between the cemetery and league has prohibited lighting at the field.
League officials are hoping to have the lights installed by Musco Lighting, lighting contractor for Little League International, in time for the first pitch in April.
William Anderson, league president, told the council the league needed lights at its main field because conflicts with soccer and lacrosse limited the league’s ability to schedule games elsewhere, and the increasing popularity of fall baseball programs required them to find a way to play complete games.
“This will enable us to extend our season and start games later. With fall ball games starting at 5 p.m., often we can only play three innings,” he said.
Chris Plympton, a league board member and co-chairman of its lighting committee with Mark Sylvia, said league officials held meetings with neighbors along Reilly Avenue to inform them about the planned lights.
“Mark and I spent several months working diligently on the project, and we left fliers telling them about the meeting tonight,” said Plympton. The planned lights received no objections from audience members Monday night.
Councilor Michael S. Kiernan also attended a meeting with neighbors.
“People were supportive. We had a productive meeting,” he said.
Plympton estimated the cost of purchasing and installing the lights at $53,000, to be paid for through league fundraisers with no money requested from the town. The 60-foot towers will each have four lights, to be arced directly down on the field and away from surrounding areas, he said, adding that technological advancements mean the league will pay less than $5 per hour for the electricity required to operate the lights.
The lights will allow the league to start games at 6 p.m. instead of the previous 5, said Plympton, allowing games to continue after sunset. Little League regulations do not permit a new inning to start after 10 p.m. for its top leagues, and has an earlier curfew for younger children playing in lower-level leagues, he said.
The field’s public address system will also be revamped, said Anderson, with speakers placed on poles on the dugouts so the sound will stay in the field area and not be projected away from it.
Anderson and Plympton said the league, which includes 600 players in the regular spring/summer season and 200 in the fall program, will not be staging additional games as a result of the lights. They plan to continue operating six days a week, with no games on Sunday, through the regular season, which ends in late June and is followed by the district All-Star tournament.
Players in the league’s girls’ softball program and the lower-level leagues, whose games are played on other fields, will also have opportunities to play under the lights, Plympton said.
Councilor Mark Gee praised league officials’ efforts to work with their neighbors and the cemetery corporation.
“I appreciate the sensitivity of the Little League officers looking out for their neighbors’ concerns. I think you guys have done a great job,” he said.