The New Balance Athletic Shoe Co.'s charitable foundation today issued a binding pledge of $500,000 to support the modernization and reconstruction of Newell Stadium.
The pledge was contained in a response to a request for proposals from the city for naming rights to the field, and the bid was opened at City Hall at 11 a.m. to cheers by the Gloucester Fishermen's Athletic Association, which is spearheading the $3.5 million project.
GFAA President Jonathan Pope said the bid, to be paid in 10 annual $50,000 increments, effectively assures that the project would succeed. Groundbreaking is set for next spring.
"Now, we're on the other side of the hill," said Dick Wilson, the visionary of the project its chief fund-raiser. "This is no longer a 'might happen,' this will happen."
The city has committed $1.5 million in a bond, proposed by Mayor Carolyn Kirk and approved by the City Council.
The mayor said the New Balance Foundation grant would be used as collateral to create gap financing for the work. The naming rights are expected to lead to rechristening the facility as New Balance Field at Newell Stadium, officials have said, though the deal is for a "title sponsorship," with the naming terms to be negotiated and agreed upon by both New Balance and the city.
"This is a great day for Gloucester; this approach can be a model for other communities," said Pope.
"It's a win, win, win, win," said Kirk. "We're so happy to have New Balance involved."
New Balance Shoe Co. is owned by Jim Davis, who has a summer home in Gloucester. A limited liability corporation headed by Davis also acquired the Brdseye property on Commercial Street over the summer, in anticipation of seeking to redevelop the largely unused space behind Pavilion Beach into a hotel complex.
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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.