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Watertown Officials Exploring Renovating Track, Tennis Courts at Victory Field

The improvements would be part of Phase 2 of the renovation of Watertown's main athletic area.

The Watertown High School played its first game on the new artificial turf at Victory Field on Thanksgiving 2011. Patch File Photo.
The Watertown High School played its first game on the new artificial turf at Victory Field on Thanksgiving 2011. Patch File Photo.
Victory Field has a new turf field for the football and baseball area, and now town officials are exploring whether to upgrade the other area of the complex - the track, tennis courts and basketball courts.

The renovation of the football/baseball area of Victory Field has provided an artificial turf field enjoyed by many high school, youth and other sports teams, but it was not approved without opposition.

Some worried about the safety of having an artificial turf with the plastic grass and recycled tires used as filling. Others objected to the price tag - $2.7 million. The town borrowed $3 million to pay for the project, but some of the cost has been offset by donations.

The teams that use the new field say it has been a great improvement.

The captains of the Watertown High School wrote in a letter to the town: "The turf field has been an excellent addition for Watertown. First and most significant, the turf field allows sports to continue through bad weather. Too often in our high school careers have games and practices been cancelled because of rain, but with the turf, that is no longer an issue."

Bob Johnson, president of Watertown Youth Lacrosse, said he is thankful for the new field, and supports phase 2 of the improvements.

"As the President of Watertown Youth Lacrosse, I was thrilled that close to 250 more young boy and girl athletes would get the chance to practice and play on the new turf field. When the program was founded in 2008, Recreation Director Tom Sullivan was very supportive of our program, but knew that field space would be our single biggest obstacle to building the program," Johnson wrote in a letter to the town.

Phase 2 includes the track and field amenities, an artificial turf field, five tennis courts, one basketball court, a new tot lot surface, additional parking, storage units, lights for field, track and parking, according to Recreation Director Peter Centola.

Efforts to build the second phase of Victory Field's renovation have just started, Centola said. 

"Please remember that Phase 2 is in the very early stages of discussion and that there is no guarantee that it will be considered," Centola said.

The Recreation Department is accepting letters about the first phase and plans for a second phase, Centola said. Information can be sent by email to recreation@watertown-ma.gov in a Word document.

Residents can discuss this project and other Recreation Department projects on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Hearing Room of the Town Hall. 

Michael Dattoli January 29, 2014 at 06:16 AM
Curious to know where the town is currently on meeting fundraising goals for Phase I? Also, is a recreational facility fee currently being utilized as part of Phase I fundraising efforts? How would the town pay for Phase II - more borrowing, fundraising, or budget allocation? Phase II was originally proposed as replacing the current green space area within the track with an artificial turf. Is this currently the plan and, if so, would the area be locked during certain times of day to protect the turf as is currently the practice at the field?
Mara January 29, 2014 at 02:01 PM
Has the artificial turf been paid for in full?
K Coyne January 30, 2014 at 12:43 PM
I believe that our town needs more open space not artificial turf. I would not mind having some improvements to the track area as long as the natural turf remains. This area is used heavily by families during the summer/year. The Artificial turf gets scolding hot in the summer while the natural turf remains cool. Let's utilize and pay for the Artificial turf we have now which , I believe is quite enough for our town. Also, Charlie did you interview or request any information from other groups with respect to the Artificial turf as I did not read any opposing opinions? Could you please ask Sustainable Watertown or some of the other groups what their thoughts on this would be(as I'm pretty sure Phase II does have Artificial Turf in the plan).
Gary M January 30, 2014 at 05:48 PM
I believe children are the most important asset this town has and these renovations largely benefit the kids of this town. Having upgraded facilities (lights/turf) increases playing time for more kids in town as well as frees up other fields . If you want open space in that area, there's plenty behind Victory Field on Whitney Hill and around the Lowell School grounds. You can't say your for kids of this town and be against phase II..
K Coyne January 30, 2014 at 08:05 PM
@Gary M: I too believe that our children are extremely important which is why I would not want another one of our open fields and play areas turned into artificial turf. The turf is extremely hot in the summer when many families are picnicking and playing with smaller children on the field. As an athlete I understand the need for open field space for organized sports but this is not just an area for organized games but impromptu games and gatherings of children/families to play. We have a limited number of open spaces and I don’t understand the need to pave that wonderful field over with artificial turf. Victory field has a very large and nice field space for kids to play organized sports and games. Albeit when(Victory) open and managed(which I believe is necessary to keep the field in good shape given the investment of money and only a max of 8-10 year life in the best circumstances). That aside, there are all the other issues with losing yet another green space in our town and the costs involved(not just $$). I much rather value our kids by fixing the fixing the fields we currently have(especially the Arsenal park fields) so that they all can play on decent fields. As for other upgrades, I think that is a good idea. The track is used by a great number of residents and I'm sure could use some help.
Michael Dattoli January 30, 2014 at 10:40 PM
Mara, the fundraising goal for Phase I of the field renovation has not yet been achieved. The victoryfieldgoal.com website shows about $400K raised on a 1.5M goal. A loan was taken out to pay for the remaining cost (over $1M). Kate, I agree with your thoughts that it makes more sense to maintain that area for kids to have a natural place to play. There is a great complex right next door for the town to use. Gary, it sounds like you believe that borrowing money to build faux fields for our children is a good plan for their future. It seems to many that the current field inside the track is much more useful for kids of all ages. Not sure if you have noticed that the Victory turf is not always open to the public. Last year, youth baseball practices were moved from the turf to Bemis because a local college team was renting out the turf. This happens quite a bit. It is much more kid friendly to have an open space that isn't locked up or rented out to other towns and schools. I can think of a few other renovations that would better benefit our children, such as re-surfacing the basketball courts at the Lowell school. Each day children play on a court with giant potholes and large cracks running deep across the width of the surface. Not only will this be a huge issue when a child breaks their ankle running across center court, it sends a terrible message that we can borrow and spend to build something we don't necessarily need instead of maintaining what we already have. I have heard dozens of suggestions for renovations that would benefit our children much more than faux fields (branch libraries for example), however money is not there for those projects either. Please explain how children will benefit from having one less open and natural field to play on?
Peter Centola January 31, 2014 at 07:10 AM
Good morning I think it is great that the patch and other media allow each of us to post our views on a particular subject. With this opportunity it is each of our responsibility is do your homework and make comments based on factual information. There can still be disagreement but after it is all said and done, but as least there was some basis of fact. To this end I would invite all interested to attend the recreations open forum on Tuesday at 6 in the town hall. Regards Peter Centola 25 Thurston road
Michael Dattoli January 31, 2014 at 07:19 AM
Peter, the open forums are great however Tuesday at 6pm is during WYH practice for the youngest players. If there are inaccurate facts regarding anything listed above, please inform us. Thank you.
Gary M January 31, 2014 at 03:44 PM
Michael, Yes I do believe "that borrowing money to build faux fields for our children is a good plan for their future" - and it appears the other towns in area concur. Every town that borders us (Belmont, Brighton, Cambridge, Newton, and Waltham), as well as 9 out 10 of the towns in the Middlesex League seem to affirm that same position regarding using field turf in some capacity. Also, I'm fine with you disagreeing with me in principle on this issue, but the term "faux fields" in both condescending and disrespectful to the many people who believed in this project and worked hard to make it happen on behalf of the youth of town.
Michael Dattoli January 31, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Gary, Watertown has a turf field, similar to Belmont and other neighboring communities. Why do you feel that a community with a smaller student population than all of those cities and towns needs a second field, directly next to the existing field? Belmont schools actually have 1500 more students enrolled than Watertown, yet they have one turf field. Why would Watertown need a second field? Also, faux field is a very real marketing term that exists within turf sales environments and athletic departments. It isn't any more condescending or disrespectful than the term faux leather or blue sneakers. It translates to false, fake, or artificial. Many residents believe that green grass and unlocked fields is very much real, while artificial turf is literally not real. It seems that the town should be more concerned about saving some of that Phase II money to pay back the loan for Phase I. I would hope that the fundraising plan that aimed to hit a $1.5M target is still actively seeking donations for Victory. That would allow the town to accomplish what is more important in this community to all children. You are obviously very passionate about this cause so I'd love to hear why exactly the town needs to have this and how our children will benefit even though they already have a field to play on.

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