Prep's new Cronin Stadium clears major hurdle

A rendering of the planned renovations to Cronin Stadium at St. John's Prep in Danvers.

DANVERS — St. John's Prep has won approval from the town for its $3.1 million plan to renovate and expand Cronin Stadium, which dates to the 1930s.

Following a public hearing this week, the Danvers Planning Board deliberated for about an hour on a special permit request and a major modification to a site plan approval, Senior Planner Kate Day said.

The project will upgrade the facility to today's field size regulations for sports, which the present stadium does not meet.

Renovations will include a new 400-meter track; a synthetic turf field for football, soccer, and lacrosse; lighting; and a public address system, said Beth Forbes, director of communications for St. John's Prep. The school will add new bleachers for both home and away fans and a new scoreboard. A storage area, concession stand and ticket booth will be renovated.

While the stadium will be enlarged, the number of seats will be about the same as before, a total of 1,524 seats for the home and away sides, according to town documents.

Cronin Stadium is not being used now, and games have been played at the artificial turf field at the nearby Brother Linus Athletic Commons, Forbes said.

The Planning Board did not hear any concerns from abutters. 

Forbes said the stadium project is expected to start this fall, pending approval of the Conservation Commission. The stadium construction coincides with ongoing construction of a sports and fitness facility, which the school is calling a wellness center, next to the stadium. Both should be ready for the start of the school year in September 2017, Forbes said.

Cronin Stadium was constructed in the 1930s and last underwent a renovation in 2001, according to the project's application.

Meeting new standards

"It is now time to fully renovate the stadium facility so that it is in keeping with the other educational facilities on St. John's campus and meets (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) and/or national high school standards and regulatory requirements," the application said.

To meet today's regulations on playing field size, the field will be increased from a width of 180 feet to a minimum width of 195 feet. The increased sideline safety "runout" will also result in a wider track layout.

The new stadium will be built on the same location as the present stadium. Parking will be on existing lots and a new lot next to the dining hall. 

Lighting will be shielded from abutting properties, and will be turned off about a half-hour after an event or game, which is typically by 10 p.m.

The Catholic boys school is in the midst of a campus renovation as part of a strategic plan called Prep 20/20. The school has built the new Brother Keefe, C.F.X. Academic Center and renovated Brother Benjamin Hall to accommodate a middle-school program.

In January, school officials announced the construction of a $24.9 million wellness center, which will include an eight-lane swimming pool, a four-court field house with an indoor track, an elevated track, and a fitness space and lockers. This project will also include construction of a solar array on property behind the stadium to power the wellness center during the day.

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

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