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Boston English field plans move forward

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  October 16, 2012 11:24 AM

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The Boston public school community deemed Boston English’s turf field unplayable early last month, and a Boston Parks and Recreation meeting was held on Monday evening to discuss plans to replace it.

The field installation is to start in the spring and finish by late summer in order to be ready in August for fall sports.

The board approved Huntress Associates to replace the field because athletic renovations are its specialty. Owner Chris Huntress attended the meeting and said the full replacement is crucial; the field cannot simply be repaired.

“Most have seen the failures which are beyond repair at this point,” Huntress said. “It gets a lot of use, so I’m not surprised by the shape it’s in.”

The company will replace the soccer, football, and baseball fields by expanding the turf and moving the scoreboard farther out.

Huntress Associates will limit cuts in the turf so renovations aren’t needed every season. He cited the cuts as the main issue with turf fields, and the fewer there are, the better the field will be long-term.

The company has plans to do research to find three quality kinds of artificial turf and narrow it down to one. Huntress said it must be able to withstand Massachusetts weather.

“We live in New England,” he said. “We get cold and we get heat, these products will perform with strong backing.”

Boston Parks and Recreation project manager Cathy Baker-Eclipse stressed that the majority of the renovation is to replace the field with new artificial turf.

While the budget for the renovation looks like a large amount, she said that it will just fit the cost of the new turf.

“We have a 1.5 million dollar budget,” she said, “but when you’re looking at 140,000 square feet, it does go quickly.”

The field was first installed with turf in 2002, and the Parks department expected at least 10 years out of it. The renovation company that completed the project went bankrupt soon after the installation, which Baker-Eclipse cited as the cause for the shape the field now.

Since then, 12 of Boston's public schools’ fields have been renovated.

“We’ve learned a lot since those early days,” Baker-Eclipse said.

She said that Huntress Associates is a “reputable trustworthy and responsible turf vendor,” and is confident that the installation will meet the needs of the Boston public school system.

Community members arrived at the meeting with other concerns.

Neighbor Shirley Grohs, who lives directly next to the field, was in attendance to inquire about maintenance of the field. She described waking up at 6 a.m. on Sundays to hear screaming from the field because there is nothing to absorb the sound.

“It’s too early to tell,” she said when asked if the meeting was helpful. “I’m glad they’re fixing [the field,] it’s a great facility for the kids. It’s when adults use it that it becomes problematic, and the management of it.”

“But I’ll keep showing up,” she said of the remaining meetings.

Grohs wasn’t alone. The majority of the audience came to the meeting to express other concerns.

Most suggested that the field should be locked at night in order to maintain its quality. Others had concern about bathrooms, lighting, electrical plugs, and maintenance of the field.

Baker-Eclipse said her concern with maintenance is that the city does not have staff to lock the field, nor keep up the cleanliness of bathrooms.

She added that lighting is not included in the budget; not much else is other than the turf. Huntress Associates will be running tests on the field this week and will be ready with a final plan for the next meeting Nov. 13.

“Hopefully it just looks a lot better at the end of the 10 years,” Huntress said.

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
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