Turf Up Committee proposes private funding for field at Masconomet

Representatives of the Turf Up Committee said at a recent Masconomet School Committee meeting that private donations and rental fees will cover the costs of a new playing field. And, they said they received a nod to send out a request for proposal (RFP).

Turf Up is a group of volunteers who would like to see the construction of one or more artificial turf fields at Masconomet. They believe turf would be a plus for Masconomet sports programs, and they’re willing to take on the task of private fundraising for the project.

When Barry Davidson of Turf Up came before the School Committee (SC) earlier this month, he received a nod to proceed to the next step, an official request for proposal (RFP), including cost and marketing analyses, for turf field construction.

The SC has requested that a market rental analysis be part of the RFP to determine how much of a demand there is for turf field rentals. On Dec. 4, Turf Up is expected to vote to fund both the cost and marketing analyses to build one turf field.

“I took this meeting [on Nov. 1, 2017] as a positive sign that a majority on the School Committee would approve a project that would not cost any more than grass fields, and that they’d agreed to the concept of doing rentals,” reported Davidson.

Turf Up, he said, has been working on the project since 2015. Volunteers believe a turf field would ultimately enhance Masco’s sports programs, placing Masco athletes on equal footing with many nearby schools already playing on turf fields.

Tasha Cooper, a Middleton representative on the SC who also serves as a liaison between the SC and Turf Up, stressed the project is considered “a gift of private money” that would be given to Masconomet. She supports going forward with the RFP process again since the prior one has expired.

“I’m appreciative of the people who want to do this for us,” Cooper said. “It would be great for our towns and our school community.”

Why turf fields?

Cooper argued that a turf field would not only extend the playing season for many sports, but would also help Masco stay compeitive. She noted that last spring the Masco Lacrosse Team had to practice indoors while their competitors from nearby towns were outside on turf fields.

“That puts our players at a disadvantage,” Cooper said.

Most of the towns Masco plays already have turf fields, according to Davidson, who provided the SC with a list that includes Lynnfield, Newburyport, Georgetown, North Andover, Hamilton-Wenham, Beverly and Danvers. The only other local towns without turf fields are Amesbury and Pentucket.

“Kids should have opportunities to practice on the kind of fields that they will compete on,” stressed Cooper, who did point out that Masco’s nine existing grass fields are in good shape.

Davidson said that with a turf field, teams can play many more weeks out of the year, and the athletic director doesn’t have to think about the condition of the field.

“They can play in rain, snow or windy conditions,” he said. “It doesn’t get muddy. You can always play on it. And you can snow blow or plow a turf field with smaller bobcats or snowblowers.”

The bottom line, Davidson said, is “You gain three times as many playable hours on turf.”

“We can have more events at the school. And camps are always looking for turf fields as well,” added Cooper.

Masco Supt. Dr. Kevin Lyons gave his support for moving the field project forward.

The numbers

Maintaining Masco’s existing nine grass fields currently costs roughly $70,000 a year, Davison said. A turf field would have to be replaced after 10-12 years, Davidson said, at a cost of around $400,000 to $500,000, or $5 per square foot.

“In a nutshell, they [the School Committee] did vote on the project, based on my numbers, with the understanding that the only way to make the turf cost even with grass is to rent it out over the summer for a fee of $150 an hour. If Masco rents out over 10 years, you’ll make up the $300,000 to $400,0000 replacement cost,” he said.

Addressing a question about the safety, Davidson said, “On a grass field, there is fertilizer and chemicals. There is none of that on turf. It’s as clean as anything else out there.”

If a turf field is installed at Masco, it would be located in front of the School Administration Building, in the area closest to the parking lot where there are no wetlands. Masco’s Football field, which is located in a flood zone, is off the table, confirmed Davidson.

Turf Up has promised to pay the full cost of the RFP study through private donations.