Watertown Recreation Director Peter Centola shared a couple of letters supporting the proposed renovation of the track area of Victory Field:
The Watertown High School Athletic Program has benefited greatly from the Victory Field Renovation Project. It has been two years since we first took the field on Thanksgiving Day versus Belmont. We have received many days of playability that we would never have had on the grass field at Victory. We have had very few cancellations due to poor weather.
The number of athletes that use the field can be seen on a daily basis. In the fall, field hockey, football, boys soccer and girls soccer all practiced and played games on the field. In the spring, baseball, softball, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ lacrosse used the field as well.
The field has become a community meeting place for many Watertown residents. There is nothing better than to see the crowds at Victory Field at a Friday night football game. The crowds have increased tremendously over my time here as Athletic Director.
I would like to point out that our “State Champion” field hockey program does not have to travel to other towns to prepare for tournament play. We have played tournament games on the new turf field as well ad practiced to keep our record-breaking streak alive.
I look forward to maximize the recreational space we have in town to achieve the greatest amount of opportunities for all Watertown citizens.
Watertown High School Director of Athletics
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After attending the September 11 meeting on Phase 2 of Victory Field Renovations, I sat down to write some of my thoughts.
Victory Field is a Community Park. Because of its size compared to others in town and its amenities, it is not classified as a Neighborhood Park.
Those who oppose the implementation of Phase 2, if they mentioned Phase 1, had only negative comments about it.
Before Phase 1, inside Victory Field was used primarily for Watertown High School baseball and football games and practices. The Watertown Middle School football games were also played at Victory Field. It was also used for Babe Ruth, Legion and Inter-City baseball. The Watertown Recreation Elementary School Flag-Tag Football Program and Watertown/Belmont Pop Warner Program are held on the site. The turf on the site could not handle this amount of activity and wore out creating poor and dangerous playing conditions and a need for resodding.
Since Phase 1 the following activities have been added to activities held on inside Victory Field:
Watertown Girls’ Field Hockey games and Practices
Watertown High School Boys’ and Girls’ Lacrosse games and practices
Watertown Boys’ and Girls’ Youth Lacrosse games and practices
Watertown High School Boys’ and Girls’ soccer games and practices
Watertown Boys’ and Girls’ Youth Soccer game and Practices
Watertown High holds some Physical Education Classes on the site.
Various Youth Sports Clinics are held on the site.
Various Groups rent the site to hold games and practices.
I find it hard to believe that a group’s feelings about Phase 1 cannot concede that a “little” positive has resulted from its implementation.
Some years back the Town did a tree inventory. It would be interesting to have study done of the air quality in the Victory Field then and now with the increase in trees on the site and the loss of grass by the replacement of the natural grass with a synthetic surface.
Victory Field Phase 2
Once again, I did not hear one positive comment about phase 2 from those opposed to it.
The main concern I heard at the meeting was that the Town must addressed, is that the synthetic turf proposed for the site is a danger to the people who would use the site or live in the vicinity of Victory Field. The product that is on the market today is better than the one that was analyzed years ago, but the resident concerns must be addressed before a synthetic surface inside the track is considered. People need to know what materials would be in the synthetic field.
The addition of 28 parking spots would represent an increase of nearly 75% to the on-site parking capacity. This would, on most days, have to lessen the on-street parking in the neighborhood around Victory Field. On days of events (i.e., High School Football Games), these spots could be restricted for use by people with Handicap Plates and senior citizens. These people may be reluctant to go to events at Victory Field because of the current parking situation. The area that is proposed for the parking is in disrepair and in need of attention. Over the years the wooden guard rails in this area have been backed into and broken. The jagged remains of the guard rails leave another safety issue for the Town to address.
The new parking spot does require the moving of the hardtop court surface approximately 60 feet toward the southeast corner of the site. The last tennis court would now be located in an area that from at least the 1950’s until the 1990’s was the location of a basketball court and a tot-lot. With the closing of the Sydney Street Extension, which was the access to the southeast corner of the park from Marion Road., this area became isolated and not very accessible.
What really struck me was that there was no comment about the proposed new lighting. I feel the new lights would greatly reduce the spillage into the backyards abutting the court area. Not only that, but the lighting could be controlled from an off-site location. This would end the lights being on while it was raining out. The new system would allow for the limiting of only 3 courts during periods of low uses. It was also mentioned that a “Push-Button System” could also cut down on the amount of time the lights were on. The new lighting system would not only cut down on the light going into the neighborhood buy also cut the cost of useful illuminating the court area.
As part of the project, the safety surface in the tot-lot would be replaced. The tot-lot gets a tremendous amount of use and is in need of a new safety surface. I was happy to see that, during reconstruction of Orchard Street, the entrance/exit area of the tot-lot received some attention. The jutting out of the curb at the crosswalk at Standish Road should make the people waiting to cross Orchard Street more visible to the motorist driving past the area.
The track, to which there was a lot of opposition to construction in 1991-92, is now in need of major reconstruction. When the 1⁄4 mile/400 meter track was proposed, it replaced a 1/6 mile track and a little-league-size baseball field. The inside of the new track was large enough for a multi-use field. This became the home for 20 years of the Watertown High School Girls’ Field Hockey Team. During those 20 years, I believe the Watertown Girls only once lost at a Victory Field Home Game. A regulation multi-use field could not have been put inside the old 1/6 mile track.
So, if the experts are correct and the track needs to be reconstructed, what surface should go
on the multi-use field inside the track? It would have been negligent of the Town to not to at least looked at the possibility of using a synthetic surface inside the track. At the meeting, we were told by the Watertown High School Athletic Director that he believes that the field surface inside Victory Field has cut down on injuries to the Watertown High School athletes. The field is playable weeks earlier each year, and the playing condition does not deteriorate over the course of the year as on the grass surface.
The Watertown High School Field Hockey, Football and Boys’ Soccer spoke about their teams’ practice schedule. Because all but one school in the 12-Middlesex League plays on synthetic field, it is important for their teams to practice on the synthetic field. This means that one of the teams practices to 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. during the fall season. They supported a synthetic field inside the track.
Do we need to light inside the track? As the year moves into the fall, the days continue to shorten. It will be soon dark by 6:00 p.m. In past years I have driven by the track at Victory Field and have been able the see silhouettes of youngsters playing soccer inside the track. They turned out to be members of Watertown Youth Soccer Teams practicing to improve their skills. This, in my opinion, is not a safe situation.
At the meeting, a woman mentioned that there were only approximately 750 students in Watertown High School and 550 students in the Watertown Middle School. She did not think the town should spend any money on facilities for these young citizens while there were 3 tripping spots on the sidewalk of Marion Road and many more around town. There were even tripping spot on the sidewalks near Watertown Town Counselors’ Homes. Let me point out that, besides Watertown High School and Middle School students, Victory Field is used by Watertown Elementary School Students and Watertown pre-school children. The park is also used by Watertown Adults. I know of citizens in their 90’s who use Victory Field. I also know firsthand that not every student from Watertown goes to Watertown High School. My daughter did, but my son did not. I have 3 nephews and 2 nieces who grow up in Watertown and played on Victory Field but did not go to Watertown High School. For that matter, the 2 girls that live across the street from me do not go to the Watertown schools. I guess what I’m trying to point out is that the number of school- age youngsters who use or could use Victory Field is greater than those mentioned at the September 11 meeting.
The only comments I heard about the youngsters who go to Victory Field is that they drink beer, litter, swear and kick dogs. I will not say that there are not some youngsters who do these unacceptable things. I will say there are more youngsters like Jake Hellman using Victory Field. I first met Jake, who produced the video that was viewed at the September 11 meeting, when he was a participant in our Watertown Recreation Youth Tennis Lessons. Jake continued in the program as an assistant instructor and then as a tennis instructor working with the young children in the program. Now a junior at Tufts University, Jake is not only a credit to his family but also the Watertown School and Recreation Departments.
Last Saturday I drove by Victory Field and saw the Watertown High School Girls’ Field [Hockey] Team putting on a clinic for many youngsters. I know that other Watertown High School coaches and players have worked with the youth program. They have coached and instructed many youngsters who hope to represent Watertown High School on the playing fields at Victory Field. I’ve seen some of these young people at games at Victory Field cheering on their coaches as they play their games. I think the good kids of Watertown far outnumber the bad.
Victory Field has been a special place in Watertown since it was dedicated in memory of those who fought in World War 1. Their sacrifices help preserve our freedom that allows us to have this discussion on Victory Field. Let us look at the best uses of Victory Field for all the citizens of Watertown. Let us insure that Victory Field will be a special place in Watertown for the next century, just like it was in the last century.
Former-Watertown Recreation Director