The second public meeting about the proposal to renovate Victory Field II drew supporters and also more people opposed to the proposed artificial turf.
Recreation Director Peter Centola told the more than 100 people at the library that the project is still in the draft phase.
“This is the second of many meetings. I get frustrated when I hear ‘This is a done deal,'” Centola said. “Go to the neighbors of the Police Station. We started four years ago and had 12 meetings (before approving the 552 Main Street park).”
(Read about the first meeting by clicking here.)
Some student athletes came out to ask for the new project to be approved, including replacing the track and installing artificial turf.
Opponents say they want to keep the grass field, so Victory Field can continue to be a neighborhood park as well as an athletic facility. Some worry about the safety of the artificial turf, which has plastic blades of grass filled in with ground up rubber tires.
“The science is not settled (with artificial turf),” said resident Chris Penland. “This is a gamble. It is placing a bet on this that it will be safe.”
Coaches and athletes both noted that the current grass field is in bad shape, and players have to dodge the goose droppings.
“I am more concerned about the goose poop,” said Mike Venezia, who coaches youth soccer and lacrosse. “When a girl slips and falls in the goose poop we pull her out and wash her off.”
Watertown High School field hockey player Kayla Johnson said she played on the grass field when she was a freshman, and did not like it.
“It was awful. Yes we won the state championship but that was because we played away games on artificial turf,” Johnson said. “The geese poop on it, and it’s not grass, it is dandelions and weeds. There are divots and I twisted my ankle multiple times.”
Amin Touri, who runs on the track team and plays soccer, said Watertown has the best soccer field in the Middlesex League, but the worst track facility, except for Stoneham.
“(The track) may seem like a smaller detail, but you are risking a lot of injuries,” Touri said. “You are not running on rubberized surface in some spots, you are running on concrete in metal spikes.”
Several people said they favor redoing the track, and resurfacing the courts, even if they opposed the artificial turf.
If the parking and driveway are redone, resident Bill Jones said he would like to see a sidewalk along the driveway.
“I feel like Victory Field is my community park. I am not opposed to the renovations of it – a lot of the aspects of the plan are terrific,” said Jones, who favored keeping the grass. “I walk my dog through Victory Field and along Marion Road (including the driveway) there is no sidewalk. It is not safe.”
Some people questions why the town is seeking to do a $3 million renovation project when there are so many other needs in the town and school departments.
“If we are going to borrow $3 million for young people, what are the arts and music program going to get out of this?” said resident Kara Flyg, who also said she worries about the safety of the materials used in the artificial turf.