Athletic fields

The Fairfield Group seeks to improve the city’s athletic fields


FAIRFIELD – Some sports fields in the city are so flooded after the rain that they are unusable for days. Others have large holes which present injury hazards to the young athletes competing in them, and others have severe inclines.

But these situations may not last longer if a group of residents is successful.

The Fairfield Athletic Foundation, a group formed earlier this year, is pushing for three renovation projects at Sullivan Field, Roger Ludlowe Middle School and Fairfield Warde complex. The most important thing would be to replace lawns with artificial turf.

“It’s more than just ‘let’s walk around the city’,” said Keith Markey, one of the foundation’s board of directors, adding that it would create fair and equitable opportunities for all teams in the city and the more than 14,000 Fairfield athletes who use them. .

He said the projects would help remove the bottleneck that occurs when the weather is bad and teams scramble for practice and playing space. The grass pitch at Tomlinson Middle School is the only land in town that does not close in bad weather.

The new sod fields would complement the existing natural fields which are well designed and present no problems after the rain. The proposed renovations focus more on fields that become “ponds” after rain and on alleviating demand on the current limited space. Teams should also be careful about using the grass fields after it rains, as this could damage the pitch.

“We live in New England,” Markey said. “We’re going to see the rain, we’re going to see the snow.”

The Roger Ludlowe project would create a multi-sports turf complex in the center of town, close to the turf fields already present at Ludlowe High School and Tomlinson Middle School.

The Sullivan Project would focus on two areas, which the foundation says are currently in use every day of the week due to their size and ability to host multiple events. Current use allows for very little downtime for the grass to recuperate between events and is therefore in “very poor condition” at the end of each season, Markey said.

The Fairfield Warde Project would create a sod complex and expand what already exists by remediating and leveling the grassed area around existing fields. The Warde campus has approximately 415,000 square feet of space, which could accommodate a sports complex. The foundation therefore asked AstroTurf Corporation to develop some ideas for a complex.

The three projects are expected to cost around $ 5.5 million, Markey said, adding that Project Warde may take a little longer due to the scope of the project and the fact that it is owned by the Board of Education.

The other two belong to Parks and Recreation and could be done immediately.

The addition of lawns could help make the city attractive for youth tournaments and generate income for the city and surrounding businesses. The foundation said the switch to sod would also save money, as the current maintenance costs to cut, align and maintain the Sullivan field are over $ 70,000 each year.

Markey said the effort was mainly due to the teams traveling to other cities for competitions. He said seeing athletic fields in other cities, including ones less affluent than Fairfield, really highlighted Fairfield’s shortcomings.

“It was mind-blowing how beautiful they were,” he said. “We got together and realized we had to do something.”

In some cases, the team from another town only arrived to find that the Fairfield land was unplayable and therefore had to be moved to another location. At other times, officials tried to move matches to the opponent’s field, which was in better condition.

Markey said the situation not only poorly reflects Fairfield, but deprives the town’s children and teens of opportunities to succeed. He said these athletes want to play and the city should help them succeed.

The foundation was created to help raise awareness about the condition of the fields. Markey said they are looking to approach the whole process collaboratively and work alongside the city and all stakeholders.

“We know the only way we’re going to do it is together,” he said.

The first selection woman, Brenda Kupchick, said she and the city’s director of parks and recreation met with the foundation several months ago to hear their proposals. She said she supported them, but that the projects should be submitted to city bodies as part of the capital budgeting process, which begins with a joint meeting in October.

The meeting, which is hosted by the Finance Council, includes presentations from heads of departments, schools and other groups on their proposed capital projects, their need and potential costs. The selected projects would form part of the list of city capitals, which is usually covered by a bond.

She said the multi-year list is currently around $ 300 million, although some of those projects are being phased out and covered with American Rescue Plan money.

If that goes, the fields are a mix of schools or parks and recreational properties, although Kupchick said the money for them “all comes from the same pot”.

Kupchick said she understands the group’s concerns and challenges with current areas, including the need to reschedule matches.

“I think it’s important to a certain extent,” Kupchick said.

She warned that this needs to be balanced with all of the city’s other needs, costs, and the city’s ability to pay so that its debt level does not affect the high bond rating, which is used to help borrow money at lower interest rates. .

“I support them, but this has to be put in the jar with all the other needs,” she said, adding that she had told them it should be a public / private partnership.

Kupchick advised the group to start fundraising and come to the finance board with the money already committed.

“It shows the enthusiasm and the desire to have it,” she said.

Markey said the enthusiasm is there.

The group launched an online petition a few months ago, calling on the authorities to improve the fields and highlighting a number of problems including ditches, steep slopes, patches of bare land instead of grass and the lack of amenities in neighboring towns, such as lights and dashboards. This petition has since collected over 2,000 signatures.

He said the foundation believes it can bring $ 1.5 million to $ 1.7 million to the table depending on who is already a part of the effort.

The group is also in the process of becoming a registered non-profit organization so that it can fundraise on behalf of the city for work.

“It’s really about making sure our elected officials are on line with us,” said Markey. “We are not trying to deprive ourselves of other important needs. It’s just getting into the stunt plan because the sports infrastructure is just as important.

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