When he served as Recreation Director Tom Sullivan dreamed of updating Victory Field, but he could not get it approved before he retired. On Sunday, Sullivan was on hand when his successor, Peter Centola, officially rededicated the field that has undergone a $2.8 million update.
The renovation provided new lights, baseball stands, scoreboards and a new artificial turf field. Sullivan said the turf has allowed the field to be used far more often because it is more durable than grass and also has prevented cancellations because the water drains much better than the old field.
"The other night it was pouring and I told my wife, I need to take a drive," Sullivan said. "Water was this deep (more than a foot) on Orchard Street, but the field was dry."
Victory Field was built 90 years ago in honor of the men of Watertown who served in World War I, and Centola said the field has provided many memories for residents over the years. The ceremony also marked the National Day of Service and Remembrance for Sept. 11, 2001.
"Each of us has a special memory of this place," Centola said "I remember my mom and dad sitting in the concrete stands watching me play in my St. Patrick's High baseball games."
Besides being home to Watertown High School teams and other leagues, Victory Field used have a skating rink on the tennis courts in the winter, it was the site of the town fireworks, it served as home for the Miss Watertown Pageant and was the location of the first memorial service for 9-11.
After a few years holding the ceremony at Saltonstall Park, the Sept. 11, 2001 remembrance moved back to Victory Field on Sunday. Town Council President Mark Sideris remembered the 2,975 killed on the day of the terrorist attacks, and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served in the armed services since that day.
Last year, Sept. 11 became the National Day of Service and Remembrance, and Sideris noted some of the groups in town that have given time, effort and money this year, including Tufts Health Care, the Mount Auburn Cemetery and those who donated to Operation Stand Down, an event in Boston for homeless and at risk veterans.
The day also marked the return of the captured World War I German cannon at Victory Field. It is now behind a fence near the football stands, and Joseph Caouette of the Watertown Veterans Council, recalled the first time he saw it.
"I was 13 years old and I walked up with my father from the Bemis area to see the cannon. I had a brother in the Army in the South Pacific and a sister in the Coast Guard," Caouette said. "I got to climb all over (the cannon). Thousands of other kids have too over the years, I have talked to people about it."
Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk thanked those who donated to help defray some of the cost of the renovations. She also thanked the neighbors who put up with the construction.
"Someone mentioned it is living near a Norman Rockwell painting. When they hear all the cheers from Victory Field it takes them back," Lenk said.