PEABODY — Good, old-fashioned dirt and grass will have to do for the new Higgins Middle School playing fields.
City Councilor Barry Sinewitz brought up the possibility of artificial turf during last week’s finance subcommittee hearing, which approved spending $92.6 million for the new school. (The state will pick up more than half that cost.)
“Over the long term, it would pay off,” Sinewitz said, arguing that artificial fields require less maintenance than natural ones. “It would be nice to see.”
Technology for artificial fields has progressed to the point where the fields are increasingly more grasslike. But the cost of installation remains high, and designers have ruled them out at Higgins for that reason.
“Certainly, I would have liked to have had a turf field at this location,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said.
Even if money is a stumbling block at Higgins, he added, he hopes to see artificial turf eventually at Peabody High School.
Meanwhile, construction of Higgins will begin on the school’s current athletic fields. They will be rebuilt on the site of the current school once it is demolished.
“But,” the mayor cautioned, “for a period of four years, we’ll be down a couple of fields.”
Little League remembers
The Veterans Council will be accompanied by Bettencourt when it dedicates the James Street Park Little League field to the memory of Edward G. Chmiel, known as “Mr. Peabody Little League” and a World War II Bronze Star recipient.
That’s on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Chmiel, who died in 2008, was considered a founding father of the Little League program here and was also active in local veterans groups. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and served in France during the Battle of the Bulge.
All this attention to getting kids active hasn’t gone unnoticed. It earned Peabody the title “Playful City USA” by the national nonprofit organization KaBOOM! (Peabody isn’t the only one to get the title — it shares the playful honor with 217 other fun-loving communities.) The designation is awarded because of the city’s work in encouraging kids to get off their, uh, couches and go outside and play.