Town Meeting: Repair WHS Athletic Fields and Facilities? [POLL]

Article 3 of the May 14 Town Meeting warrant articles asks voters if they will restore and repair athletic fields and facilities at Wakefield Memorial High School.

Up for a vote at the upcoming Town Meeting is an article that would appropriate a 15-year, $5 million bond to restore and improve the athletic fields and facilities at Wakefield Memorial High School.

The repairs would go to upgrade several fields and facilities. First on the list is Landigran field, which would include a new turf field, bleachers with a press box, a concession stand, bathrooms and team rooms. Next is Beasley Field, which would include a new turf field, a re-surfaced track, and lights. The Capital Planning Committee is also recommending replacing the WHS field house floor, replacing the Dobbins tennis courts, and resurfacing the Veterans Field tennis courts.

Except before you go reaching for your checkbook, Wakefield's Capitial Planning Committee and others within town government say they have found a way to make the repairs without costing taxpayers any more than they are already paying.

Shaun Margerison, chairman of the Capital Planning Committee, said the sale of the Franklin School, re-financing on the town's loan for the Senior Center, and the end of the town's loan for the Lucius Beebe Library all create a perfect financial climate to undertake the bond for the repairs this year.

"That all combined means that our current bond payments will remain exactly the same on a 15-year-bond," he said.

Margerison said one of the reasons for the high cost of the project is that along with updating the facilities comes regulations, such as making the bleachers and bathrooms American Disabilities Act compliant.

"If you don't touch them, they can stay, but if you re-build, you have to do that," he said.

The two grass fields would be replaced with a multi-sport turf field, which would allow for more sports to practice or play on it for more time each day, Margerison said. Margerison added that turf fields have improved a lot in just the last several years, and cost about the same to maintain as grass fields. The fields would be marked with lines for several sports, including football, soccer and lacrosse.

"If you look at Beasley come mid-August, it's just dirt," he said. "The band can't practice on it, you can’t have any soccer scrimmages, and you’re very limited, and Landrigan has limited use because of the same thing. If you have it too much, you won't be able to use it for anything but football."

Margerison also added an additional benefit of better sports facilities could mean more Chapter 70 funding, if the new facilities attract students to stay in in the public school system instead of heading to private schools.

"A larger student body can account for a little bit more funding," he said, noting he didn't know any exact figures, just the general Chapter 70 funding formula. "It may be a dollar, but a dollar is a dollar," he said. "Say five kids stay, it may be enough to tip the scale."

Are you in favor of - or against - the repairs? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

Maureen Miller May 03, 2012 at 12:26 PM
This is not just a benefit to our students. It would be a benefit to a lot of our community. Many people, other than students, use our tennis courts and the track. I think we need to stress that it is an improvement for our whole community not just to our students. It is part of the town's infrastructure, therefore it is our (tax-payers) responsibility to improve it and maintain it to current standards.
Tasha Schlake Festel May 03, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Well said, Maureen! I'm definitely voting in favor.
John Q Public May 03, 2012 at 02:03 PM
It is evident to anyone who has walked the Beasley Oval that the conditions of the field there are poor, and I think several sports in different seasons would benefit from a turf field at that location. I do not completely understand why it is that Landrigan field itself needs a turf field, I do understand that the bleachers need to be brought into conformance to allow handicap access but the field is actually quite nice i understand that a new turf field at Landrigan would be maintenance free, however will the savings realized from not having to mow and fertilize ever outweigh the cost of a new turf field, i doubt it. IMHO new turf at Beasley, fix the tennis courts, New bleachers at Landrigan new snack bar? new field house floor? Im sure anyone with a CAD program could better arrange the locker room/storage building, instead of a teardown like anything in life there are the "must haves" and "nice to haves". In order to have this bond voted on favorably at town meeting, I think it would behoove those involved in planning , to concentrate on the "must haves" In order to gain approval
John Roberto May 03, 2012 at 04:45 PM
As a member of the Warrior Club (football boosters), I invite John Q. Public to tour Landrigan Field with me anytime. The locker rooms were in such deplorable condition last year, the Warrior Club spent significant funds to replace lighting, remove mold and repaint the rooms just to make it usable. The locker room itself has one, yes one toilet. Put 80 kids in a room before a game with one toilet and you tell me how someone with CAD can make that work! The concession stand is not to code. Therefore groups are very limited in what they can sell at an event. The school department purchased a used fridge last year but there is no ice machine, limited hot water and nothing is stainless steel like required. The field itself is quite deceiving from sitting in the stands. Take a walk on the actual grass and you will realize it is far from perfect. The town has to install sod every year just to make it playable. The Warrior Club has spent thousands of dollars over the years to "put lipstick on a pig." We have tried to make it look good by painting, etc. However, it has become a bottom tier facility in the area and it used to be #1. Its time the Town of Wakefield make upgrades so booster groups in town can concentrate on providing equipment and other goods to the teams and not paying for what is the responsibility of the taxpayer. VOTE YES on Article 3
Lisa Butler May 03, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Well said John. Unfortunately all of our athletic fields & facilities have become "bottom tier", especially compared to surrounding communities. Our tennis team cannot practice at our home courts, Dobbins. Additionally, the courts are patched every year which is nothing more than a band aid until next year. For too long this town and its leaders have said it's "good enough". It's time to invest in our students and our community.
Maureen Miller May 03, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Headline of Wakefield Item today" $394K Grant will Promote Healthy Lifestyles": One way to promote healthy lifestyles is to have courts, tracks and fields that are safe to play and exercise on!
Invest wisely May 03, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I hope the chairman's comments are a simple mistake and not indicative of a greater lack of awareness of the town's field usage. High school soccer has not played at the Beasley Oval for over 15 years. The boys and girls soccer teams must share the Walton Field at the middle school. Likewise, the football teams must share Beasley. The Capital Planning Committee's capacity to recommend and advise the town on a $5 million bond comes into question when it appears to have a loose understanding of the town's field allocation. A project of this scale is overdue. Wakefield will be one of the last towns in the Middlesex League to upgrade its field surfaces. But a broader issue remains. Where is Wakefield's Master Plan? Are town committees and boards planning based on a comprehensive vision for the town? We have limited resources. Invest wisely.
C. Perry May 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
C. Perry....Vote YES on Article 3....Done!! PS Beasely Oval looks like a BMX bike track!


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