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When Steve West took over as the Chatham Anglers team president in 2013, he had a goal: Facilitate upgrades to Veterans Field, while “preserving the charm” of the Anglers’ home.
As some Chatham fans have already secured their spots before the Anglers’ home opener against Falmouth on Wednesday, they’ll notice significant differences from the year prior. West worked with the Community Preservation Commission, the Parks and Recreation Committee and the town planning board to raise funds and get permission to build new metal bleachers behind home plate and a 10 foot taller and six foot wider scoreboard.
“I had certain things I wanted to get done,” West said. “...This is the final touch.”
West’s first renovation for Veterans Field was adding new lights in 2015. Walking from the Chatham Community Center off Main Street, the trees that once provided shade to the bleachers and area behind them were removed in January. West said that the team plans to replant trees at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
As fans walk up the hill to see the field, they can sit on metal bleachers instead of the wooden ones that sat for almost 60 years. The new bleachers aren’t as wide as the old wooden ones, but they hold more fans — 650 at capacity.
“The old bleachers looked terrible,” West said. “They used to be four rows, and there wasn’t any leg room. They were old, built in the 60s, I wanted new bleachers.”
The bleachers are divided into four sections by metal stairs. Its tallest area, just in front of the press box, has seven rows of seating. Unlike in the past, the improvements are compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Five metal seats rest at the top of the middle section, directly behind home plate, without the need to navigate stairs.
“Some people don’t like change period.” West said. “But this is essentially in the same footprint as the old bleachers, and it’s safer.”
Toward left-center field, Veterans Field will also feature an improved FairPlay scoreboard. After last season’s issues with the scoreboard — including its failure to work for some of last season’s home games — the Anglers wanted to improve it.
“We had a 20-year-old scoreboard, it needed to be replaced,” West said. “Could we have kept it for a few more years' Absolutely. But this is better and it’s beautiful.”
While the changes weren’t complete until four days before Wednesday’s home opener, the planning began before the 2018 season. In May 2018, West first proposed the bleachers and received multiple bids from contractors.
In November, the final plan for the bleachers and scoreboard were approved. By Jan. 3, builders broke ground and ripped up the old wooden bleachers.
The old scoreboard required two beams to hold it up while the new one requires four. Not only is it wider and taller than the previous board, it also keeps track of both pitch count and pitch speed.
“It’s very classy,” longtime Chatham fan Joe Ulian said. He came to the field on Friday with his wife Linda as they reserved their yearly seats just behind home plate.
The area behind home plate used to be solely dirt and drained poorly. Now, the new pavement features black drainage slots to help prevent puddling that has been an issue in the past.
In late May, the final bars were added atop the metal bleachers. On Saturday, the crane placed the final pieces of the scoreboard including a red “A” Anglers logo on top, with “Veterans Field” in blue underneath it. Both sit above the “Home of the Chatham Anglers” inscribed across the top.
Now, Veterans Field is what West envisioned six years ago.