Future of Concord athletic fields up for discussion

  • A rendering of a proposed updated Terrill Park, featuring what would be the city's first and only outdoor artificial turf field. Courtesy of the City of Concord

  • Concord’s field hockey team practices at Rollins Park on Aug. 20, 2019. The school district is looking to review its athletic facilities. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 8/2/2022 4:50:38 PM

The topic of Concord athletic fields is back on the table this month, as the school board started the process of creating a community advisory committee or public hearing as a means of gathering community input about existing facilities and the possibility of building an artificial turf field.

“It may be time to look at our facilities and determine, are they ready for upgrades?” Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said Tuesday. “Things only last so long. We want to be able to look at the facilities at Memorial Field, and I know they use an area for field hockey I am not sure is conducive to the game.”

At Monday night’s board meeting, members discussed the idea of creating an advisory committee on athletic fields and facilities, comprised of members representing parents, coaches, students, city government and school district.

Board members said the committee would need clearly-established goals in order to be effective, and they debated whether organizing an advisory committee would be more or less impactful than simply holding a public hearing.

“I don’t think it’s an either-or,” said board member Jonathan Weinberg. “I think we can have a hearing on this topic, while at the same time forming a committee with intention.”

There are other, larger questions about the manner in which the city and the school district share use of athletic facilities, and which institution should pay for construction and maintenance. School board members said those issues will need to be addressed through negotiations that are beyond the scope of any advisory committee.

“I do think that there has to be serious negotiations,” Murphy told board members at the meeting. “Will it be difficult? It absolutely will be, because of the traditions and long history you’ve had. But I think you have to start somewhere. And I think there’s a lot of folks out there that expect you to do that.”

Concord athletes, parents and coaches have voiced concern in recent years with the conditions of city-owned Memorial Field, where a heavy rain storm can create pools of standing water, and water-logged grass can be torn up by cleats in a matter of minutes. Concord High games have often had to be postponed or relocated due to poor conditions at Memorial Field.

The city has a plan on the table to build an artificial turf field at Terrill Park in the next phase of improvements, although funding remains a struggle. Artificial fields typically cost more than a million dollars and Concord’s could cost more, as the City plans to forego the classic crumb rubber infill in favor of a more natural material, due to the field’s proximity to the Merrimack River.

Concord school officials say an artificial turf field could be incorporated into the design of a new middle school depending on the cost and location, but no final decisions have been made.

Artificial turf fields have been built in other communities around the state, including Bedford, Nashua, Manchester, Hollis-Brookline and Laconia. Bow’s proposal to build a turf field was voted down at Town Meeting earlier this year.

Board members referred the issue of the athletic fields committee to their Capital Facilities Committee, who will study the topic and recommend how to move forward.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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