The private side of the Newell Stadium renewal project, aimed at turning the Gloucester High School facility from a rundown safety hazard into a community point of pride, has benefited so far from two major private donations.
According to a report by project partners headed by the nonprofit Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association, the donations are topped by a $10,000 gift that has been received from Rockport National Bank.
A similarly-sized donation is also listed as being from an anonymous contributor.
"We're very happy to take a leadership role," said Rockport National President Peter Anderson, looking toward an overhaul to create "a facility that we can be proud of in Gloucester."
With the city of Gloucester now eyeing a bond to expedite the project, private fund-raising efforts, under way for months, are being given new emphasis — and challenged — by city officials.
Earlier this month, an initiative calling for the city to borrow at least $1.5 million to pay for a $3.5 million renovation of the stadium advanced as a City Council committee recommended moving ahead with a loan authorization.
Tentatively revising Mayor Carolyn Kirk's original $1.5 million borrowing plan, the council's Budget and Finance Committee suggested authorizing a bond issue of up to $3.5 million — enough to cover the entire project cost.
But almost immediately, Councilor Steve Curcuru, the committee chairman, said the panel's initial motion might need fine-tuning.
Curcuru cautioned, "the city's commitment is still only $1.5 million."
Now, a public hearing on a loan authorization of that amount — $1.5 million — is slated for Feb. 8 when the full City Council next meets.
Authorizing a larger bond issue "has gone by the boards," Curcuru said.
Echoing Kirk, Curcuru said that underscoring a substantial city commitment to the project could spur the private fund-raising effort,
As outlined by the mayor, a major funding piece for a stadium renovation kitty would come from community donations totaling $1.5 million.
That sum would rely on major gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors and the GFAA's $1,000 by 1,000 campaign, which is a grassroots outreach effort to commit 1,000 people to donate $1,000 each.
Meanwhile, Kirk has proposed that the city match community donations in the amount of $1.5 million, saying that "putting the proposal forward at this time serves as an incentive to the community to contribute now and make a new Newell Stadium a reality for a 2011 ground-breaking."
To obtain another $500,000 — and bring a total renovation funding pool to $3.5 million — the mayor said the city, state Sen. Bruce Tarr, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and the GFAA are jointly pursuing a state PARC grant under a program that assists cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for parks and outdoor recreation purposes.
As envisioned, a renovated stadium would feature bleacher stands set on pilings, wheelchair access, synthetic turf and a new track. The facility hosts a number of Gloucester High's athletic teams, along with soccer events that are part of St. Peter's Fiesta, the city's youth football championship games, and — when the weather cooperates — the high school's annual graduation ceremonies.
Kirk has called the fund-raising project "the philanthropic opportunity of this generation."
Information about the private fund-raising effort and a list of donors may be viewed at www.newellstadiumrenewal.com.
Dick Wilson, a driving force in the private fund-raising campaign, said Wednesday that city action on the loan authorization front could lead to more outside contributions.
"I think we have a number of very large potential donors queued up," Wilson said.
Next Tuesday's City Council meet is scheduled from 7 to â11 p.m. in Kyrouz Auditorium at City Hall.
Francis X. Quinn can be reached at 978-283-7000 x 3455 or email@example.com.