Athletic fields

Launch of the Ayer Shirley Athletic Fields project with shovels and smiles


AYER — The long-awaited sports ground complex is finally a reality.

“How long…four years?” asked Mary Malone, former superintendent of the Ayer Shirley Regional School District, who led the last field committee and presided over the dedication ceremony last week.

Coaches who attended the event agreed it had been a while, more like seven years, they said. But now work has begun, with heavy equipment and construction crews from MJ Cataldo and Construction Dynamics, on the $5.2 million project.

“There are so many people to thank,” said school board chair Michele Granger, who sits on the fields subcommittee. Entrepreneurs, for example. “They were great to work with and even started early,” she said.

Thanks were also extended to Robert Norton, whose family made a substantial donation to the project and who has been part of the process from the start. According to members of the subcommittee, he attended almost every meeting and provided valuable input.

He is the only son of the late Harold B. Norton, after whom the original football field is named. The new complex will also be named after Ayer’s former superintendent.

A plaque will be erected in a stone on the grounds, featuring a biopic that highlights Elder Mr. Norton’s dedication to students and school sports.

Robert Norton could not make it to the ceremony. But he sent a message, which Granger read aloud.

It said, in part, “When I first met Superintendent Malone several years ago, she was very proud to show me the beautiful high school under reconstruction, but was quick to point out that the grounds of sport had to catch up with the rest of plant physics.”

“And now, after a few starts and stops, we can begin realizing our vision of a first-class sports complex. Our family is honored to carry on my father’s name with the newly improved facilities. My father loved the towns of ‘Ayer and Shirley and especially his youngsters.Norton also noted that he had married “a Shirley girl”, Janice, and that he thought his father took “particular pleasure” in it.

“If he could be here now he would have a shovel by the handle and tell us all to keep going. So let’s go,” Norton wrote.

A reception with light refreshments was held after the brief groundbreaking ceremony.

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