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Arena farmland makes way for Concord Academy fields

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 14, 2012 06:04 PM

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arena.jpg
Betsy Levinson
The buildings of Arena Farms have been demolished by crews from Concord Academy to make way for new playing fields and tennis courts.

If all goes well and the weather continues to cooperate, Concord Academy students will be playing games by next fall on all new natural athletic fields at the former Arena Farm, according to the school’s 18-year Director of Operations, Don Kingman.

“September-ish,” he said, sounding a hopeful note.

See video of crews preparing the site after demolishing the big red barn.

The independent day and boarding secondary school on Main Street bought 13.5 acres of farmland that had been in the Arena family for generations. Kingman said in 2007, the school purchased 11.8 acres and the remaining 1.75 acres a year later. The school raised approximately $7 million to acquire the property and provide for its maintenance.

The two lots are now joined into one, that will eventually have six tennis courts, two playing fields, one for soccer and lacrosse, another for field hockey, and a baseball diamond. The traditional sports play in different seasons so they can use the same fields.

“As far as land, this is the most important purchase the school has made in as long as I can remember,” said Kingman, as he surveyed the demolition work at the Fairhaven Road site.

The big red barn has been demolished, and the topsoil is being removed to make way for a sandy soil, a “root mix” that will hasten drainage from the fields after a rain. He said the topsoil will be used “in non-field areas” as part of the extensive landscaping.

The fields will be natural soil and grass, not artificial turf. Kingman said he’s “old school” when it comes to playing surfaces. Also, he said “cost was an issue.”

The new fields are about one mile from the main campus, he said. A shuttle bus will take students and spectators from the school to the fields. He said the school is reaching out to town sports and recreational groups that may want space for athletics outside the three hours that CA will use them.

While the school has athletic fields now at the campus on Main Street, they are situated on the Sudbury River and are prone to flooding in a year of substantial rain.

“Athletics are part of our curriculum,” he said. “We had an underwater classroom when those fields flooded. I’ve been looking for ways around that for 15 years.”

The Fairhaven Road site will have 57 parking spaces just inside the gate, he said. In addition to the fields and courts, Kingman said there will be a “support” building for changing clothes, first aid, and a common area.

“It’s right off Route 2; it’s outside the floodplain,” said Kingman. “Tough to get much better than this.”

Kingman said the permitting process was complicated but successful. The school is improving the drainage from the old farm by upgrading the two on-site ponds for stormwater retention. There will be no lights at the site.

“We take pride in being a good neighbor, both in the town and now here,” said Kingman.

But a big plus, Kingman said, is the “300 or so trees that we will plant” once the site is established with fields and tennis courts. The new trees and bushes will act as a buffer from adjoining property, and provide definition between fields. He said landscapers are using sugar maples and “reintroducing” elm trees to the area.

“Imagine a majestic sugar maple that we can tap for our science curriculum, and bringing back the elms that were eradicated 50 years ago,” said Kingman. “This will be a beautiful site. We are protecting open space, and we are open to community use.”

He said the old fields will be kept along the river; one for varsity teams, another for junior varsity. Currently the two programs share the fields, resulting in over-use. As for the current tennis courts, Kingman said the trustees are just now discussing what to do with them.

Betsy Levinson can be reached at betsy.levinson@gmail.com.

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