Bow wants to be first school district in Concord area with artificial turf field

  • The proposed turf field would replace an existing track near the elementary and middle schools. The proposal calls for a full field plus a short field and bathhouse. Bow School District Budget Committee

  • Jeffrey Vidou, of Hanover, right, runs wide, pursued by Alex Boisvert, of Bow, during their game at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Monitor staff
Published: 2/10/2022 5:35:33 PM
Modified: 2/10/2022 5:33:50 PM

Bryce Larrabee, the current Bow School Board chair and head of the Bow Athletic Club, has been working for a decade to make an artificial turf field a reality for the town’s sports community and families.

Even before Larrabee got involved, as far back as 1999, conversations cropped up in the school district about building a synthetic turf field as muddy fields and changing New England weather have limited field time for youth athletics.

This year, Larrabee has spearheaded a plan to build a new field with a variety of funding sources, including increased athletic fees, donated labor, a new school bond. If approved, Bow would become the first school in the Concord region with an artificial turf field.

“This project has been coming for a while,” Larrabee said during a budget public hearing Wednesday. “It benefits both the Bow and Dunbarton kids…It’s called a community field for a reason and we are going to structure time for all groups.”

The “preferred plan,” with a price tag of $3 million, includes demolition of the existing track field between the middle and high school and construction of a new track, a new turf field, plus an additional half field, as well as a bath house and concessions area. R.S. Audley Inc., a Bow general contracting company, is donating its services to prepare the land for construction at a value of more than $500,000. Once that work is complete, construction of the subsurface, installing the turf itself, and adding lights and bleachers would follow.

“Audley will do the demolition work in October, and the expectation is that it will be built in November and kids will be playing there about a year from now,” Larrabee said.

During the public hearing to review the town and school board budgets, the plan to install the synthetic field dominated the dialogue. Several people questioned the price and the necessity of the new field.

“The timing is right,” Superintendent Dean Cascadden said. “There is a lot of monetary offsets, and a lot of community support.”

Both Larrabee and Cascadden stressed the community impact the project would have, as it will be used beyond high school sports, including youth athletic programs and will be available for traveling teams to rent in the summer when school is out. They also said a detailed weekly schedule would outline when different teams could use the field.

A scaled down version of the new athletic area, referred to as the “basic plan” does not include the half field or bath house. It carries an estimated cost of $2.5 million.

Cascadden, stressed that the preferred plan delivers what the school wants to accomplish with the project.

“The basic project is basically the one field and bleachers and lights,” Cascadden said. “When you go to the preferred option, you add in the half field, restaurants and a snack shack. So, the purpose behind this is more practice space, getting teams outside as quick as you can in the spring and as late as you can in the fall.”

The initial funding will come from multiple capital reserve funds, including the AREA Schools Capital Improvements Fund. The school board and budget committee have worked in tandem to formulate ways to supplement the yearly cost of the project. Still, a $2 million bond would primarily pay for the project.

If the bond is accepted, it will require an annual payment of $215,000 for 10 years. To offset those costs, Bow High School plans to raise their sport activity fees to $100 per sport or a maximum of $200 per student. Also, local youth sports have planned to add a registration surcharge, and the Dunbarton School District has agreed to triple their yearly payment to use Bow’s athletic facilities. These efforts will amount to nearly $142,000 a year.

Taxpayers are projected to be on the hook for about $73,000 a year. By comparison, the school district’s annual budget is over $30 million.

A turf field in Bow would result in seven of the 15 Division-II athletic programs in N.H. having one.

The plan triggered questions about priorities and cost.

Bow Resident Shannon Rose questioned the committee on why more essential needs, like how kids are unwilling to drink the water at the school because of past contamination issues are less of a priority than the field.

“Have we taken into consideration that the kids can’t drink water at the school, but we’re putting in a turf field,” she said.

School Board Representative Jennifer Strong Rain responded by saying that they are continuing to put efforts into helping with issues like water quality while also pursuing larger projects.

“It is something that we have been looking at, we have it tested constantly and it’s coming back,” Rain said. “They can drink the water at the middle school, I know they don’t like the smell of it, I know they don’t like the taste of it. We have had it looked at it multiple times.”

There will be a specific bond hearing for the project on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. in Bow High School’s Auditorium where residents will be able to voice their opinions of the proposal.

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