Exploring the future of Memorial Field

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 09-20-2023 3:50 PM

Better drainage, a turf field, updated bleachers, public bathrooms and private locker rooms are just some of the amenities Concord residents want to see in the city’s master plan for an updated Memorial Field. 

Though renovations won’t come for another three to four years, the Concord Parks and Recreation Department held the first of many community listening sessions on Tuesday for city and school officials and Concord residents to discuss the future of the city’s athletic complex. 

“If you have children in the sports program, you know there are other facilities that are much better than Memorial Field these days,” said Director David Gill. 

The underground drainage system installed in the 1970s is no longer working, leaving puddles of standing water that render Concord’s athletic fields unusable after heavy rains. The grass in some areas is torn up from overuse, the out-of-date bleachers are due to be replaced and smaller communities across the state, like Bedford, Hollis-Brookline and Laconia, have invested in newer artificial turf fields that have become the envy of Concord athletic families. 

As part of the discussion, the group of 50 or so residents was split into two and asked a series of questions about the athletic complex; What are the main issues? What amenities should be included in the master plan? What are the top financial priorities?

The consensuses were the same.

In addition to improving drainage, installing a turf field, renovating the existing fields, replacing the bleachers and building bathrooms and locker rooms, residents expressed a want and need for a better lighting and sound system, the inclusion of solar power and WiFi access, wind screening for the tennis courts, sound barriers for neighboring residents, better parking and sidewalks, and the creation of multi-sport fields. From a financial standpoint, drainage, improving the track and football fields and installing a turf field were top priorities followed by the exploration of alternate locations and equity of use to include community events and band practice.

“The Memorial Field Complex is an invaluable source to the City of Concord – summer camps, picnics, fireworks,” said School Board President Jim Richards. “Over the past 10 years, the city has invested in parks across the city, including Memorial Field, but I think this is the first time in about 50 years or so that we’ve made a comprehensive study of Memorial Field.”

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By the end of the calendar year, the Parks and Recreation Department expects to have a master plan completed with the help of the consulting firm Vanasse, Hangen and Brustlin, which has offices across the country. Over the next three months, Gill and the consultants will talk to student-athletes, review resident testimony and put together a conceptual design to be presented to the public.

“Ideally, we’ll come back with a design that everyone loves,” Gill said.

In June, the city and the school district came together and both agreed to put in $75,000 for the conceptual design review of the athletic complex. Future improvements could cost up to $5 million.

Located off South Fruit Street in Concord, Memorial Field includes two football fields, a track, a baseball field, two softball fields, a Little League Field, two soccer/lacrosse fields, 10 tennis courts, two basketball courts and open space.

Concord athletes, parents and coaches have voiced concerns in recent years with the conditions of Memorial Field, where storms often create pools of standing water and games are often postponed or relocated due to the poor conditions.

Over the last ten years, the city has invested almost $800,000 to improve the tennis courts, the baseball field press box and an engineering study for the baseball and football field bleachers.

Those who wish to submit additional comments or review the status of the project can visit concordnh.gv/1943/Memorial-Field..

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