The Mansfield Town Council has agreed to support a proposal to upgrade some of the athletic facilities at E.O. Smith High School.
The $2.17-million proposal, approved by the Regional School District 19 school board Aug. 4, will go to a referendum Sept. 28.
Mansfield residents can vote at the Audrey B. Peck Municipal Building from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents in Willington and Ashford will vote at their normal polling places.
Council members Peter Schaefer and Denise Keane were not present for the vote Monday [Aug. 23]. Council member Meredith Lindsey abstained from voting.
Worst facility in the state
The proposal calls for a brand new track, a synthetic turf athletic field inside the track and reconstructed tennis courts at E.O. Smith.
Superintendent Bruce Silva said E.O. Smith has “the worst facility in the state” and the school stopped using the track a few years ago due to safety concerns.
“I would concur that this is one of the worst facilities I’ve seen in years,” said project architect Vincent McDermott.
The council made few comments during the presentation, but Councilman Peter Kochenburger did agree E.O. Smith’s outdoor athletic facilities were worse than ones he has seen at other high schools.
He also said it was “very striking” to see the contrast, especially at high schools that are in poorer communities but have nicer facilities.
Benefits school’s PE classes
Silva said the new proposal will upgrade the facilities for high school athletes, but will also improve the quality of E.O. Smith’s physical education classes.
While the current track is a standard 400-meter track – which is equally divided along both sides and both turns, but limits the size of the field inside – the new track would be a modified 400-meter track – which has uneven sides.
The new track would allow for a full-size high school soccer field within the track, allowing more athletic teams to use the field behind the school.
The field will be made from a synthetic material, which is more durable and will allow physical education classes and athletic teams to use the field to get more use from it.
Silva said physical education teachers currently need to be careful not to over use the grass field so it can remain in playing condition.
McDermott said the field does not have proper irrigation and added, even with sufficient water and $20,000 in maintenance, a natural grass field can support 15 hours of usage per week.
The turf field would need to be resurfaced every 10 years, but McDermott also said grass fields should be reconstructed every 10 years for proper upkeep.
Silva and school board member Robert Kremer said they understood the referendum will occur during a tough economy, but also said they scaled the project back from a $3.95-million plan rejected in February 2009. [See link to story, below]
Kremer said the school board focused on the “essential needs” and Silva noted this project does not include work to the Farrell Field Complex.
The project also does not include bleachers and lighting, although it will include some initial installation to prepare for lighting in the future.
District 19 officials have said they hope to purchase bleachers if money becomes available.
Mansfield’s planning and zoning commission approved conceptual designs for the project in July, but District 19 officials would still need additional approvals before moving forward.
Posted Aug. 26, 2010