Committee recommends building synthetic turf field behind Hollis Brookline High School to alleviate over utilization of fields

HOLLIS – Approximately three dozen residents attended a December meeting to hear the findings of the Athletic Facilities Study Committee and to ask questions.

The committee presented data regarding the status of current fields in the Hollis Brookline Cooperative District, and offered a proposal for a new $1,250,000 synthetic turf field to be built behind the high school. The meeting was informational only and no action was taken.

Bradlee Mezquita, of the civil engineering firm Tighe & Bond, gave a PowerPoint presentation analyzing the current overutilization of fields. The study analyzed usage of the following eight fields: Middle school field, high school softball field, high school side field, high school football field, high school soccer/baseball field, Love Lane Field, upper practice field, and Hardy North Town Field.

Assuming 3.5 hours of daylight for practice/play after school, that yields 17.5 hours per week for each field, for a total of 140 hours of field use available. Based on the number of teams, Mezquita estimated the number of field hours needed is 177 in the fall and 150 in the spring. Because of the heavy schedule, fields don’t get to rest and the grass and conditions suffer.

“One of the big things we saw when we looked at your fields as a whole – obviously, we know you are over utilized – but just looking at the quality of the turf on the existing fields, they are getting beat up,” Mezquita said.

“This is not atypical of a district who is trying to play that many sports, both fall and spring,” he continued. “You’re field poor. If you are going to play in the spring, then give it a season off. Most (districts) can’t do that. The more heavy usage, cleat-driven sports you have, the maintenance crew doesn’t stand a chance.”

Mezquita recommended the construction of a new field on land behind the high school already owned by the district. Although it costs more up front, the proposal calls for synthetic turf rather than grass because in the long run, it will save money on irrigation, mowing, fertilizing and maintenance costs. Synthetic turf also drains faster so fields will be available for use earlier in the spring than grass fields that have to wait for snow to melt and then are muddy. Grass fields begin at $250,000 and a synthetic turf field will cost about $800,000.

Various residents commented on the “embarrassing” condition of the fields, and voiced concerns over safety since many injuries occur as a result of tripping or twisting ankles on rocks and mud rather than from collisions during play.

Others questioned how the project will be funded and the effect on their taxes. If approved, the construction will likely be funded by a bond spread out over several years rather than as a one-time expense.

Tom Solon, chairman of the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School Board, raised the issue of how programs would be affected if the new field was not approved and only current resources were available.

Mezquita responded that programs would have to be reduced or eliminated if nothing changes.

The findings of the committee and proposal for a new field will be presented to the Cooperative School Board at a future meeting, and it will be up to that board to determine whether to include a warrant for field construction in the upcoming budget.