School Subcommittee Recommends Adding Another Artificial Turf Field

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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.

15 thoughts on “School Subcommittee Recommends Adding Another Artificial Turf Field

  1. Folks ought to google “the dangers of artificial turf” before recommending it for our children to play on. Apparently there is a greatly increased occurance of cancers from the ingested and inhaled tiny pellets of turf. Check it out. I, for one, would prefer that outdoor play is healthy for kids and for the environment. Spending many thousands of tax dollars just to have the most currently fashionable and unhealthy field surface seems a foolhardy choice to me.

    • Yes, that has been a big concern. However I here they have gone away from old tires and don’t even use rubber anymore. The new field across the river, Daly Field, has a fill made from coconuts.

      • Charlie,
        You’re 100% correct. The health concerns are only brought up by people who oppose the fields in principle. In addition to the hundreds of test done confirming there are no issues with crumb rubber, there are many newer synthetic and organic infill materials available in the market. The bottom line is that the kids feel the surface is safer than the poor condition of most grass fields available.
        It’s also interesting that no one has brought up health concerns or unnaturalness regarding the playground surfaces in town and at schools being an artificial rubber surface.

  2. What’s wrong with grass, a natural product! Problems with turf go beyond chemical content and include excessive stress on joints. There is a reason that so many big league stadiums have gotten away from turf and gone back to grass, and it is exactly that–injuries.

  3. To be clear, the Watertown community came out not only the neighbors, for all those meetings to oppose more plastic fields and more lights in an already heavily lighted(pollution)community. We have serious issues with our school buildings, overcrowding in Elementary , science labs that are in need of big updates . These should take precedence. We will need to replace Victory Field park football/baseball field in approx 5 years, as the normal lifespan is 10. Let’s fix the fields we have now and schedule them as a collective. I believe this is what the human services sub committee requested happen .

    • Yes, there was a strong group from the community opposing the artificial turf. There was also a strong group for the turf. There were also some living nearby who wanted turf but more who opposed it.

      • Charlie yes there were those in favor but the large majority was against more plastic turf. I attended all the meetings and this is why the Town council voted to take this option off the table for Victiry Field Park oval. My point was that the voices against was not a minority and were not just voices of the neighborhood. But many residents throughout Watertown .

        • I am not sure if I would call it a large majority, from what I heard at the time. My point was while the neighbors were strongly against it (say 90 percent) the town in general was much closer with a strong voice for the artificial turf. Also, what I remember is some were opposed because they were worried about the health concerns. And some wanted it in no shape or form. On supporter side they wanted it because it allowed more playing time. Also, much of the strong opposition from the neighbors was due to the lights, not just the turf.

          • Charlie,
            I have to strongly disagree with how you characterized residents’ outcry against a 2nd turf field the first time Victory Field Phase II was defeated; multiple times more than a hundred people showed up at meetings to oppose the turf; it was a large majority. which is why the Town Council specifically line itemed it as not happening in Phase II.

            Turf only lasts ~10 years then has to be replaced
            Replacing the turf costs ~$1million
            Turf gets so hot in the sun that it can’t be used, sat on or even walked on summer making it ONE LESS FIELD available
            Turf regularly has to be CLEANED WITH CHEMICALS to remove any potential biohazard

            Which translates into still requiring regular maintenance so no savings over a grass field which is natural, environmentally friendly & can be used by all throughout the summer.

            Additionally, $1.5 million of Phase I was supposed to fundraised through sponsorships, only $3000k was raised & the town had to pay for the rest (unexpectedly) with bonds.

            Why are parents fighting so hard for athletic fields when our academics are so poor? Watertown Schools = 6 rating

            PRIORITIES PEOPLE! #academics #sciencelabs #technology

            These are town fields that the WPS are allowed to use & given 1st priority, we don’t want a huge ATHLETIC COMPLEX to be rented out to colleges, external leagues & tournaments.

            Watertown doesn’t want the traffic that it would bring either.


          • Yes, you are right a lot of people showed up to oppose the turf. But quite a few showed up in support, and I continue to hear people who still want another turf field.

  4. Hadley did a pro and con chart on the different types of infill for artificial turf last yer, including cocoanut.

    Everything comes with a cost.

    The EPA has not released their final report and recommendation on their “congress mandated” review of artificial turf. They are continuing to study throughout this year.

  5. Charlie,

    Thanks for pointing out there’s a groundswell of majority support for additional turf and lights in town, and that the opposition is mainly from abutters to Victory field. The School Committee has heard the students, coaches, and parents loud and clear.

    While people make it a money issue, it isn’t. If it was, where were these people last year when the DPW spend $1.2m on new trucks. Where were they when last year we agreed to spend $900k to renovate Moxley field – including lights? Yet when Victory Field question arises the residents cry poor. Also read where CPA funds, which can’t be applied to schools, can be used for Victory.

    None of the negative comments above address the following facts
    1) Turf is the most desirable, safer, surface in town for our school kids and teams will often wait later into the night to use it. Many teams that want to use it are denied access.
    2) The consensus at the Health and Human Services Committee Meeting is that we don’t have enough field supply to support demand. Outside of creating multiple new grass fields, turf and lights are the only way to increase that supply.
    3) Many who oppose lights at Victory Field are advocating a later school time in 2018. Yet, with field space already scarce taking another 30 mins of daylight away from student athletes can’t happen without additional lighting.

    • CPA funds can not be used for Plastic fields though they can be used for Grass fields.
      The findings at the Health and Human services was that they don’t know what the real findings are until they all sit down together(which was the result of the meeting). This is actually a great step forward as there are many questions around scheduling and availability especially for Watertown Youth sports.

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