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Mystic Valley buys into Roosevelt Park renovation in exchange for use

Posted by Alix Roy  May 14, 2010 08:04 AM

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Plans to renovate Roosevelt Park have been made in cooperation with the Mystic Valley Charter School, which will pay for a third of the renovations in exchange for use of the fields for 20 years, city officials confirmed on Thursday.

According to the agreement, the charter school will contribute $378,000 to a rehabilitation project featuring the installation of a turf playing surface. The field encompasses two softball diamonds and will be lined for soccer and lacrosse, said Stephen Wishoski, executive director of the Malden Redevelopment Authority.

But for one Malden teacher, who asked that her name be withheld for fear of repercussion, the emerging partnership isn't sitting well.

"The fact that the city entered into an irrevocable agreement with [the charter school] for exclusive rights to the field for 20 years without public input is, as my teenage daughters would say, wrong on so many levels," she wrote in an e-mail. "The number of conflicts of interest is unbelievable."  

Mystic Valley has made no secret of its desire to expand its athletic facilities. Last month, it purchased the former Davidson Chevrolet dealership on Eastern Ave. for $4.4 million. The 4-acre property will be transformed into a sports complex with turf fields and a gymnasium, school officials said.   

In exchange for its partial funding of the project, Mystic Valley will enjoy exclusive use of the playing fields for 420 hours a year for 20 years, Wishoski said. Specifically, the charter school will have sole access to the fields between 4 and 6 p.m. on school days coinciding with the spring and fall sports seasons and between 8 and 11 a.m. on a certain number of weekends.

Spokesman Martin Gately said the school hasn't decided which of its sports teams will use Roosevelt Park, but cited several instances of overlapping practices among baseball and softball teams and soccer and football as creating a need for more fields.

"There are times when we're going to have space issues," he said. "This addresses some of those issues."

Salemwood School students will be able to use the fields for gym class and activities held during the school day, Wishoski said. Youth sports programs that currently use the field in the evening and on weekends (Malden youth soccer teams are one example) will need to adjust their schedules to accommodate the agreement.

“It's still a public park,” he said. “It'll still be used by the youth groups in the city.”

According to Salemwood Middle School principal Carol Keenan, details on how the fields will be shared by the charter school and public school students is still a topic of discussion between the district and Mayor Richard Howard, who touted the field improvements in his state of the city address in March.

The entire Roosevelt Park project will cost an estimated $980,000, with the remainder of the funds likely coming from two rounds of Community Development Block Grants and a $500,000 state grant that the city has applied for, Wishoski said. Construction is slated to begin in September and be completed the following fall.

The city is considering similar agreements with Mystic Valley Charter School and Malden Catholic High School to renovate South Broadway Park, Wishoski said, adding that the deals are “a great way of financing field improvements.”


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