Potential sports field sites narrowed

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NAUGATUCK — A sports complex with a football and soccer field, tennis and basketball courts and a concession stand would be created at Cross Street School if a sports advocacy group gets its wish.

The Naugatuck Sports and Support Group, which works to enhance local athletic opportunities, is looking at the $1.2 million Cross Street project as a long-term goal. The group will also focus efforts on cheaper and easier ways to combat what it says is a field space crunch, such as grading a soccer/football practice field at the Fawn Meadow subdivision off Mulberry Street for $135,740.

Fawn Meadow, pictured here, is one of four sites where the borough is considering building athletic fields.
Fawn Meadow, pictured here, is one of four sites where the borough is considering building athletic fields.

Mayor Bob Mezzo, a youth coach and committee member, said the group realizes the borough does not have money to complete the fields.

“But if we plan now, and the economy rebounds, we’d be in a much better place to act than if we just sat on our hands and hoped we had money,” he said.

Athletic organizations and local officials have tried for years to find adequate recreational field space. They say the fields are overused, with about 2,000 children and more than 200 adults playing sports every year.

There are 500 children playing for Naugatuck Youth Soccer, which has four game fields and plays other games on three baseball and softball fields at the Rotary/Breen complex. The league also practices on shoddy surfaces, as do many sports programs, including a new youth football league with more than 100 players.

Soccer club President Bill Brown, who is also on the committee, said the Breen and Rotary fields are in rough shape.

“Imagine a football player or a soccer player trying to get footing on a field that is all dug up from overuse,” he said.

He said corporations such as Adidas offer competitive grants to pay for field upgrades. “But you need a plan in place before they will give you anything,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Since 1994, the borough has debated a controversial plan to build a soccer and football practice field on borough-owned open space at Gunntown Road, off Rubber Avenue Extension. Officials recently decided to leave the parcel as open space and look elsewhere for sports fields.

Based on engineering and planning studies of all possible fields, the support group decided to focus on ways to develop up to five fields that would cost from $90,200, at Country Hollow Estates off Donovan Road, to $1.57 million for a field at Apple Hill Estates off Osborn Road.

To come up with those numbers, the borough examined all costs, including clearing, grubbing, cut and fill, top soil, plants, parking, stop signs, lights, water, electric and police protection, among others. The upgrades could be implemented in stages, and the engineering department will analyze the costs of basic field construction and elective choices, Mezzo said.

“Over the years I’ve seen a lot of bruises and scraped knees because we’re practicing on poor fields,” he said. “Yeah, we can still keep throwing our kids out there every year, but the reality is our kids deserve better.”