The demand for artificial turf field space has grown for Watertown High School’s athletic squads, and a School Committee subcommittee has recommended that the town install a second artificial turf field with lights somewhere in town.
With football/baseball area of Victory Field covered in artificial turf it has allowed the area to be used for more hours and in more inclement weather, said WHS Athletic Director Michael Lahiff. However, there is a lot of demand for that space.
In the fall, for instance, it is used by the football, field hockey, and boys soccer teams. However, the football team has priority because they cannot practice or play on the nearby Victory Field Track Oval because players would tear up the grass, Lahiff said. They are not the only team that wants to use the turf.
“Field hockey wants to be on the turf, it’s a different game now (on artificial turf), and boys soccer prefers it,” Lahiff said.
Other communities have multiple artificial turf fields, Lahiff said, and many have more natural grass fields so they can let the recover from heavy use and still have enough space for their teams.
School Committee Vice Chair Kendra Foley, who is the chair of the School Committee’s Athletics Subcommittee, said that it is also a matter of equity.
“Girls soccer does not get access to Victory Field,” Foley said, noting that the team plays at the Victory Field Oval or Moxley Field.
Safety is also a concern, she said.
“When baseball and lacrosse are practicing someone (on another team) could get his by a ball,” Foley said.
Most of all, Foley said she is concerned about the late practices teams must have to give everyone time on the artificial turf.
“Instead of going home to have dinner with their family and do homework, they are going to practice,” Foley said. “We certainly value co-curricular activities, but if we are not doing well by our students academically we are not doing our job.”
The Athletic Subcommittee, which also includes Guido Guidotti and Candace Miller, voted on June 8 to recommend the following statement to the full School Committee: “Based on the needs we have heard from coaches about the current practice/game schedules of our student athletes, we request that the Town Council examine the feasibility of adding a turf field with lights in Watertown.”
The recommendation will be reported to the School Committee on Monday, June 19. The final decision on putting in artificial turf and lights would be up to the Town Council because all the parks are run by the town.
Foley noted that the subcommittee has not recommended where they new artificial turf field could go. A few years ago there were discussions about putting turf inside the track at Victory Field, but that was met by strong opposition from neighbors who said the area is also their local park and they want to have natural grass. Also, the addition of lights there was strongly opposed by neighbors.
In the meantime, there is a Town Council Subcommittee looking a renovating the track and court areas of Victory Field. Their instructions for how to look at the renovation given by Town Council President Mark Sideris was that there would not be artificial turf inside the track at Victory Field. The Victory Field Committee’s next meeting will be Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the Lower Hearing Room of Town Hall.
In past discussions, other places to put an artificial turf field and lights include Filippello Park and Moxley Field.
Correction:an earlier version of the story incorrectly statedthe girls soccer team plays at Filippello Park.