SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 23, 2014

Danvers High playing fields final stage in project

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — A new 2,600-seat athletic stadium with a synthetic turf field set close to Danvers High School is part of a $6.5 million plan to redo the school’s athletic fields.

Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to move ahead with the plan, which would rotate the site of the stadium along a north-south alignment and move it closer to the high school.

“It really makes the stadium part of the high school complex in a more intimate way,” said Mike Powers, a former selectman and Danvers High teacher who previously chaired the Danvers High School Facilities Committee, which recommended the project.

The new athletic complex would include a 240-foot-wide, 400-foot-long synthetic turf field suitable for all sports; accessible bleachers and press box; adjacent restrooms; energy-efficient lighting and scoreboard; covered storage and a concession stand.

Powers said field work has always been part of plans to upgrade the high school complex, but it was held off while first Holten Richmond Middle School and then Danvers High were renovated.

The current Dr. Charles F. Deering Stadium dates back to the early 1960s and is tucked behind the school’s field house, separated from the high school by more than the width of a soccer field. It can be hard to get to for those who have trouble walking.

Under the plan, the new stadium’s goalposts will be in line with the bus turnaround at the school’s front entrance. Bleachers will be built opposite the school side of the stadium, and the stadium will meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Selectman Diane Langlais, also a Facilities Committee member, said the group considered four options, including leaving the stadium where it is, before deciding on a preferred plan.

Langlais said the proposal moves the stadium for a number of reasons. The running track needs to be widened, which would have pushed the bleachers back under the stadium’s current alignment, encroaching on the left field of a baseball diamond.

“You would be spending money to use less fields,” she said.

Moving the stadium also allows space for more bathrooms to be built, she said.

Powers said the proposed artificial turf field allows for more athletic activities to take place on the high school complex.

“It increases capacity by having a field that isn’t subject to the whims of a morning shower creating muddy conditions,” he said, noting that Salem, Beverly and Gloucester have artificial turf fields.

Sports teams can begin to practice earlier in the spring than they can on a grass field, he said. An artificial turf field also allows sports team to play in the rain, meaning fewer cancelled games, Langlais said.

According to Langlais, the maintenance of both a natural and an artificial turf field over 15 years is about the same.

The plan also calls for the creation of a new baseball and multiuse field about where Dr. Deering Stadium is now and includes reconstruction of the school’s five tennis courts.

The field work taken out of the recently-completed, $70 million Danvers High project, because its cost is not reimbursable under the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s program.

Langlais said May Town Meeting will be asked to borrow money for the project. The town is seeking $950,000 in private funding to help pay for it. The energy-efficient lighting would be paid for through the Danvers Electric Division.

In 2011, the town considered applying for a state matching grant of $500,000 to pay for a turf field at the stadium, but Department of Public Works Director David Lane said there were too many decisions to make with the high school under renovation for the town to apply at that time. The state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant is part of the funding plan for the new fields.

Lane said not a lot of money was spent on this latest field study. Lane and Kerri Brennan, the program engineer for the DPW, served as staff to the committee. DiNisco Design Partnership of Boston, the architect for the high school project, was hired to do some drawings, and engineering consulting firm Weston and Sampson of Peabody was hired to review estimates, but it was the committee that did the legwork and gathered the information, Lane said. Money for the study came from design funds for the high school project.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

Budget for athletic upgrades Stadium, including turf, running track, bleachers, storage, press box, restrooms, public address system and lighting: $4,352,320 Baseball and practice football field: $804,491 Tennis courts: $448,000 Contingency funds (15 percent): $840,722 Total: $6,445,533