T.U.R.F. outlines $5 million overhaul of ORR athletic complex

Organization says current fields increase risk of injury
By Georgia Sparling | Apr 06, 2017
Courtesy of: T.U.R.F. The proposed athletic complex includes two artificial turf fields, a new track, new lighting, a press box and irrigation for every field.

Mattapoisett — T.U.R.F.'s plan to revamp and vastly improve the Old Rochester Regional athletic fields is taking shape, but now the group needs to see green.

The nonprofit T.U.R.F. (Tri-Town Unified Recreational Facilities, Inc.), formed by tri-town citizens, is looking to raise around $5 million to overhaul the high school’s athletic complex, including two synthetic turf fields and a new track.

“We think it’s an incredible need,” said T.U.R.F. President Tom Flynn.

No one is denying that the conditions of the fields are dire. There are large patches of dirt amid the already sparse grass on the stadium field and secondary field at the front of the complex, at the poorly irrigated baseball diamond, in the rear fields and in the softball field in front of the school.

According to T.U.R.F. member Hal Rood, the problem with the fields is “simply a question of mathematics.” He said natural grass maxes out at 600 hours of usage a year, but ORR’s fields saw 1,040 hours last year.

“I was a proponent of natural grass fields but once I looked at the math, it's just not going to make sense,” Rood said.

T.U.R.F. members also say the poor quality of the fields has resulted in injuries, and that concussions are a concern since dirt (and sometimes rocks) break an athlete’s fall.

“We’ve had some tough injuries with kids that I think could have been avoided,” Flynn said. “I would suggest we’re getting to the gross negligence point.”

Furthermore, the track is near its expiration date and is not up to current regulations, which means the award-winning track teams can’t host meets at the school. The football goalposts don’t meet new standards either. There’s no press box, no irrigation and the field lighting works when it feels like it.

The solution is, of course, costly. T.U.R.F. hired the engineering firm Kaestle Boos Associates to draw up a plan for the fields with cost estimates.

The stadium field will cost $1.7 million and the track and secondary field $2.1 million. Both fields would be converted to synthetic turf, while the remaining fields would be irrigated and reseeded. Two fields would be created behind the turf fields and adjacent to the baseball diamond so that teams could alternate between seasons to preserve the grass. Those two fields, the baseball field and the softball field at the front of the school will cost an estimated 285,000.

Other expenses are $395,000 for a new athletic building with concessions, storage and bathrooms. Currently, the fields only have portable (and let’s face it, smelly) bathrooms.

“So a grandma who comes to a sporting event has to trudge across the parking lot if she wants to use the bathroom,” said Rood.

But who will pay for all this? The T.U.R.F. members said the project has to be a joint effort between the community and towns. The group has already secured some private donations, but would like each town to pony up a significant sum.

The proposed cost per town is $1.67 million, but Rood said that number will be offset by revenue from the synthetic fields.

With fields that don’t need to recuperate from constant use, ORR could host an estimated 15 annual tournaments at $1,000 per day, youth leagues for $50 an hour, among other community and regional events, for an expected $206,000 annually, according to T.U.R.F.

That revenue would leave the towns with a 15-year loan to repay at a cost of $71,000 payment each year. Rood also said the cost to maintain the artificial fields is significantly less than to maintain natural grass.

Natural vs. synthetic fields

Expense

Grass field (conventional)

Grass field
(organic maintenance)

Synthetic field

Total life cycle cost

$1,117,500

$1,330,000

$1,667,500

Total cost per year

$74,500

$88,667

$111,167

Field hours per year

600

600

1500+

Events/practices per year

200

200

500+

Average cost per event

$373

$443

$222.33

 

As a citizen group, T.U.R.F. still needs the ORR School Committee’s blessing to move forward, and on Wednesday committee members said they do support the project, but want to make sure they are part of the planning process. Flynn suggested a facilities committee under the School Committee’s purview be formed as the project takes shape.

There is much work to done before new fields can be installed. Beyond the creation of a facilities committee and further conversations with the School Committee, the project will need green lights for funding from all three towns as well as permits to do the construction.

But Flynn views the project as something beneficial to the whole community, as many youth and adult sports leagues already use the athletic complex regularly.

“It’s not just a school project, it’s a community project, it’s a tri-town project,” he said.

T.U.R.F. plans to be there all along the way.

Said Flynn, “We can’t afford not to do it at this point. We are ready to throw ourselves into this project. We’re in it for the long haul.”

For more information, visit www.orrturf.com.

Another view of the proposed project. (Photo by: T.U.R.F.)
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