Friday, October 13, 2006
Growing sports programs drive field expansion needs
Why does the town need to build more playing fields? To answer that question, Recreation Commission (RecCom) Chair Allen Deary presented data to the Finance Committee (FinCom) both by e-mail and at the October 4 FinCom meeting to address the upcoming Warrant Articles relating to the construction of new recreation facilities on the Banta-Davis Land. The FinCom wanted to understand the RecCom's long-range plan as well as the data backing up the need for more fields and how much collaboration is being done with Concord. If the first Warrant Article for $1.6 million passes, the average estimated tax bill (roughly $8,500) will go up by about $92. If both Warrant Articles pass, the average tax bill will go up by $126.
The first Warrant Article is for roughly $1.6 million for field construction and additional improvements on the Banta-Davis Land off Route 225, next to Green Cemetery. The cost includes building two Little League baseball fields and one all-purpose field, a pavilion, four tennis courts, more parking, additional roadway for better traffic flow and a path to be used by walkers, runners and cross-country teams, an improved connection to Spalding Field and some additional funds for conceptual design work for a recreation/community center. In addition, the two tennis courts at the Carlisle Public School will be transformed into basketballs courts. The second Article is to cover the new all-purpose field with artificial turf to increase the days per year the field can be in use.
RecCom sees need
for eight new fields by 2010
FinCom Chair Thornton Ash wanted to see the big picture. Deary explained that the RecCom drew up their long-ange plan after discussions with the Carlisle School, and many athletic groups, including Concord Carlisle Youth Soccer and Youth Baseball organizations. Deary said the sports groups found it difficult to schedule sufficient games and practices with the existing fields. The RecCom laid out a plan for 2005 to 2010 which called for eight additional fields — four in addition to the planned three fields at Banta-Davis and one at Benfield.
RecCom goals: Banta-Davis,
Rec Center, then other fields
Deary sees the RecCom's priorities as follows: first to improve Banta-Davis by adding three fields, the pavilion, the tennis courts and paths, second to build a community center/recreation center/Council on Aging (COA) center, and third to develop additional fields, preferably at Foss Farm or the Benfield property. Deary said he would not expect to ask for funds for a new community center for three to five years. "There is a recognizable need for a center" but more analysis is needed. "How big does the center need to be?" In terms of fields, he continued, "We voted on Benfield with a field and we need a field there. But it may be seven years out."
FinCom member Susan Wolfe commented that in three years, the ideal site for a field had changed from the Benfield Property to Foss Farm and now the Banta-Davis Land. Deary said that all these choices are good because the town already owns the land. However, he expressed his frustrations with trying to move forward on developing a field on either the Benfield property or Foss Farm and he said it would take more dialogue and negotiation. Banta-Davis is ideal because of its proximity to the school, its abundance of parking and the fact that neighbors are not too close. If the town supports the artificial turf, there are some advantages. Besides never needing to be watered, fertilized or mowed, the field no longer needs to be rested. Deary addressed many questions in an October 3 e-mail to the FinCom,"We may see a 1.5 to 2.0x increase in usage possibly delaying or eliminating the need for an additional field. Maximum usage would also require lighting extending usage times significantly. It is our opinion that two artificial surface all-purpose fields on the upper part of Banta-Davis with lighting may eliminate the need for Benfield or Foss all-purpose fields."
"Carlisle Recreation and Concord Recreation have worked closely and have reviewed the combined needs for the CCYS (Youth Soccer), CCYL (Youth Lacrosse) and CCYBS (Youth Baseball and Softball) programs," Deary wrote. "It is our opinion (though this is clearly a matter for BOS and Finance) that each town should fund and develop their own assets (fields, recreation/community centers) and then allow the youth organizations to organize the programs and schedule use of the assets, implementing user fees to help support field upkeep and improvement."
Many teams vie for field use
The fields are busy from after school through dark and are booked fully on weekends. The peak times are spring and fall. Summer is clearly slower. Deary said the reason fields are so much in demand is that the number of programs has grown in the last three to five years. New teams include: Girls Soccer, JV Hockey, intramural lacrosse, flag football and C-C youth lacrosse. Kids are playing more than one sport per season and each sport is now run multiple seasons, such as spring soccer. Also, there is an increase in women's programs. As the needs increase, it is harder and harder to have time for the fields to rest.
Deary shared data from the Concord-Carlisle team organizations (see table.) "This data doesn't include school needs and it doesn't include adult athletes' needs either." Concord has 20 fields and Carlisle has 6.5 fields. Spalding counts as 3.5 fields because all the fields cannot be used at the same time. Carlisle supplies 25% of the fields, but our population makes up 27% to 31% of the teams, depending on the sport.
Between the two towns, there are 100 baseball/softball teams with 1100 kids, 140 soccer teams with 1441 kids and 10 lacrosse teams with 130 kids. In a previous presentation, it was noted that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the U.S., and Deary believes there would be more teams here if more fields were available. Coaches in all of the sports would like more time to practice. FinCom member David Verrill said, "It's a fight for practice time."
RecCom has raised $70,000 in private funds. "We have reestablished the Carlisle Recreation Trust and it can be used to raise money for other serious capital projects." Deary continued, "However, to successfully raise private money beyond our current levels will require a separate and focused effort."
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