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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
SHREWSBURY - The school district has begun a capital campaign to raise $1.8 million to install artificial turf and make repairs at the high school athletic campus.
The need for the improvements was identified several years ago.
After months of research by the high school improvement project team, the School Committee last week unanimously approved the first phase of the project, which entails replacement of the grass stadium field with artificial turf and resurfacing of the track. The vote also included authorization to begin the campaign to raise $1.8 million for the artificial turf portion of the project. Town meeting in 2015 appropriated $285,000 to resurface the track.
The project, proponents said, is needed because of the poor condition of the 14-year-old grass fields. Having a turf field will allow for better and safer playing conditions for
multiple high school sports teams as well as physical education classes. It will also allow for an earlier start to the practice seasons, eliminate moving or rescheduling games because of rain, and allow the high school to host playoff games. Turf could also generate revenue from rentals to club teams and other districts.
Some people have questioned the safety of turf, but the proponents' research, which included state and federal data, concluded that artificial turf fields do not pose health risks to players or the environment. Bryan Moss, a member of Sustainable Shrewsbury, said while he is supportive of goals to improve the sports fields, he preferred improved natural grass fields.
The project will not use a crumb rubber material infill, the subject of controversy across the country regarding health risks. The product that is recommended is Envirofill, a 98 percent silica sand encapsulated in an acrylic coating. It will be installed on top of a shock pad, which reduces injuries.
Assistant Superintendent Patrick Collins, head of the improvement project team, said about half of the teams Shrewsbury High School competes with in the Wachusett League - including Leominster, Westboro, Lunenburg, Marlboro, Wachusett Regional and Shepherd Hill Regional - already have turf fields, which are considered safer and allow for faster play.
"The rationale is the same one they had, and the one we're using, which is it will just add access for all our teams on a consistently safe playing surface, is the primary reason to do it. That's why we're moving forward with the project," Mr. Collins said Monday.
Depending on when all the necessary funds are secured, the project is expected to be constructed June through September 2018. The new field would be in use beginning in October 2018.
In the future, there could be two additional phases to the project. Phase 2 would include a second, multisport turf field where the current lacrosse field is located. Phase 3 would be additional stadium seating for the second turf field and potential additional bathroom space and storage for sports equipment.
Mr. Collins said he said he is hopes large donors will step forward, similar to what happened with the primary athletic field at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley. The Youssef and Moniz families of Dudley, who collectively own several local Dunkin' Donut shops, donated $1 million to the project. Two local insurance companies also made significant donations.
Mr. Collins said the new turf field has the Dunkin' Donuts logo stitched into the field. Weymouth-based Gale Associates, which installed the Shepherd Hill field, is contracted for the new Shrewsbury turf field.
"We're hopeful and want to be optimistic that maybe some corporate donors will want to be partners with us in a similar way," he said.
Anyone interested in donating may contact Michelle Biscotti and Kathleen Keohane, coordinators of development and volunteer activities for the school district, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 841-8470.
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