BY ANDREAS YILMA
BEACON FALLS — Region 16 school officials will present the feasibility study at a public hearing to Prospect and Beacon Falls residents on a new turf field for the Woodland High School athletic fields on March 29 at 7 p.m. at the Long River Middle School at 38 Coumbia Ave.
The school board will then vote to move it to a revised referendum for May 2nd , all day district wide vote for taxpayers to have s say on the field.
School district voters last year approved about $2.3 million for a three-phase capital improvement project that includes installation of a new track around the football field, repairing drainage on the existing field, and renovating the weight room and gymnasium floor. Since that approval, there has been a public outcry from the sports community, mainly the football community, for a new all-purpose turf field.
Kaestle Boos Associates, a New Britain-based architectural firm, recently completed a $30,000 feasibility study to measure the fields, identify if a soccer field can fit and give a rough estimate of the total cost.
“A synthetic field would be able to be utilized by all athletic programs for both practice, and games, during the day or under the lights. In addition, as the synthetic field receives more use, it will take pressure off the remaining natural turf fields, allowing them to be rested,” according to the recommendation of the study.
Region 16 Board of Education Chairman Robert A. Hiscox said a copy of the feasibility study will be sent out to town halls, libraries and senior centers in both towns.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said Kaestle Boos Associates looked at all three fields, including the north soccer field, the football practice field and the football field with the track and lights.
The main football field just meets the minimum requirement which Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows, Yamin said.
“The CIAC wants 65 yards wide. Our football field would be 61.6 or 61.3 and gives us the three yards on each side that is now required,” Yamin said. “We’d love to have 65 because the National Federation wants 65 but the CIAC will approve the minimum of 60.”
Yamin said he and other school officials went to the Naugatuck High School football field which is the same size as Woodland’s field.
“Our footprint would be the same thing so we could put it in there. If we wanted to expand and get the 65 or 70 in case down the road they change the minimum requirements, that wouldn’t be feasible,” Yamin said. “We’d have to take our track which is eight lanes to six. We’d have to move lights. We’d have to the bleachers.”
Yamin said it wouldn’t be feasible to put the tracks down by the soccer field. If this new proposed portion of the capital improvement project were to include two fields, the football and soccer field, instead of costing $1.7 to $2 million, for one all purpose turf field, it would cost about $4 million to have two fields.
“We feel very comfortable and we got the CIAC to say it to us, they’ll allow the same footprint that we have which would mean that we can take the existing grass field and turn into a multipurpose field and we could put soccer and football on that same field,” Yamin said.
School officials would like to stay within the 61 feet because 65 feet would mean the out of bounds would the track. If state athletic officials change the rules down the road, 50% of statewide soccer fields are turf as well and wouldn’t be in compliance, Yamin said.
“We feel like we could do it on the existing field and I think we’ve done our due diligence and I hoping that the towns will support it,” Yamin said.
Board member Robert Dyer said since it’s budget season, if the public does eventually approve the turf field, which would have a roughly 10-year life before needing to be resurfaced, school officials should put a place holder in the budget each year to address it.
School officials are hopeful there will be district wide public vote in early May for an all-purpose football and soccer field, Hiscox said.
“I think we’re putting it in the right hands also and letting the public, the taxpayers vote and a reminder that at one time, this board had taken a position against the turf field,” Hiscox said. “So we’ve listened to you, went out and done what we needed to do and we’re going to put it in the hands of the taxpayers for you.”