Neighbors question use of lights, turf for field hockey at proposed AHS facility

From left, Avon High's Natalie Grillo, Hannah Deppe, Paige Deppe and Lauren Jeandell spoke in favor of installing a synthetic turf on the current field hockey field at Avon High.

From left, Avon High’s Natalie Grillo, Hannah Deppe, Paige Deppe and Lauren Jeandell spoke in favor of installing a synthetic turf on the current field hockey field at Avon High.

AVON – The Avon Town Council and Board of Education got a look at the recommended proposal to install a new synthetic turf field and track and field facility at Avon High in a special joint meeting Thursday night at the Avon Senior Center.

Town residents also commented on a $4.04 million proposal to replace the current football field with a synthetic turf field, a refurbished eight-land track and lights. The proposal would also include bleachers to seat 1,000 fans, a press box, a storage building and sports-related equipment, such as hurdles, nets, pads and goals.

An eight-person subcommittee of the town’s Recreation and Park Committee met seven times this summer to come up with the proposal.

An optional proposal to install turf on the field currently used by the field hockey program was estimated to cost $1.13 million.

Neighbors from Sudbury Way and West Avon Road expressed concerns about the use of lights, additional events in the evening and a the policy surrounding the use of lights. Representatives from Sudbury Way and West Avon Road were on the Recreation and Park Committee subcommittee and both voted against the proposal.

There was also significant support for installing turf on the field used by the field hockey program. Four seniors, currently on the Avon High team, spoke in support of turf for their field. Nearly every CIAC tournament game is played on synthetic field, putting the Falcons at a disadvantage since they practice and play a majority of their games on grass.

Just a few hours earlier, the Falcons (3-2) won their third game of the season by blanking Southington, 6-0, on their grass field. Three of the four players that spoke — Hannah Deppe, Paige Deppe and Lauren Jeandell — scored goals in the victory.

The proposed multi-use synthetic field and track and field facility at Avon High.

The proposed multi-use synthetic field and track and field facility at Avon High.

Several residents and the Avon High Booster Club spoke in favor of the proposal. Still, a few residents advocated reconsidering a proposal to build a multi-use facility on Thompson Brook Road while other residents called for the construction of additional fields in town.

The Recreation and Park subcommittee proposed that a usage policy that would limit the multi-purpose facility to 15 night games a year. Games would end at 9:30 p.m. and the lights would be turned off at 10 p.m. There could be an additional four night events if the Avon High teams earn CIAC tournament berths.

Other town programs using the lights would not be allowed to just the public address system or the scoreboard. Games would have to conclude at 7:30 p.m. and lights would have to extinguished by 7:45 p.m. No night events would be allowed on Sunday.

The proposal includes plants and a six-foot cedar fence along the property line between the school and Sudbury Way residents and along West Avon Road.

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Residents offer their thoughts on the proposed multi-sport and track and field complex at Avon High.

The neighbors are concerned and want people to be held accountable if the procedures surrounding rules to use the facility are not followed. “We’re reasonable. We’re asking for a reasonable policy and procedures to put into writing and to hold people accountable,” said Sara Roberson, a member of the Recreation and Park subcommittee and a neighbor of the high school. 

Speakers supporting the field hockey program were concerned that the team wouldn’t get an opportunity to practice on turf if synthetic turf was only installed on the main field within the track and field complex. Several speakers advocated the installation of two turf fields, which would allow teams to play games on the main field and practice on the smaller field.

Football, field hockey, boys and girls lacrosse and boys and girls soccer could be played on the main field. The current field hockey facility is too small for any sport except field hockey but it could be used as a practice field for other sports. Granby built two synthetic fields when it installed a synthetic field a few years ago.

Houston Putnam Lowry, the chairman of the Board of Education, said he was concerned that the site may be too small for the proposal.

The Town Council directed Brandon Robertson, the town manager, to meet with Tim Filon, the athletic director at Avon High and Ruth Checko, the director of the town’s Recreation and Park Department to take into account comments from the Town Council, Board of Education and residents to come up with a final proposal for the Town Council to consider.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Robertson didn’t have an estimate on when the revised proposal would be available for the Town Council to consider.

The proposal developed by the Recreation and Park subcommittee also called for the use of coated crumb rubber to be used as fill between the blades of synthetic grass.

Crumb rubber has been used as a base for thousands of fields across the nation in the past decade. There are some concerns about the health of athletes who play on the crumb rubber fields. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating those claims.

To address those concerns, the committee decided to use coated crumb rubber pellets, which Simsbury used when they replaced their original fill on their synthetic field this summer. The committee, working with consultant BSC Group of Glastonbury, did consider several alternatives to crumb rubber, which is made up of recycled tires that are ground up into tiny pellets.

Sand gets too hard and fill made with recycled pieces of sneakers looks poor and is hard to obtain. Organic fill was considered but if schools don’t keep the field moist (30 percent), it can dry out. With that moisture, organic fill fields can also freeze, especially in the late fall and early winter.

The town has been examining proposals for synthetic turf fields since 2014. 

In November 2014, BSC Group provided the town with two proposals for an athletic complex that could be built on a 15.25-acre parcel on Thompson Brook Road at the site of the former M.H. Rhodes Company, adjacent to the bike trail.  

One proposal that included a multi-use synthetic turf field, a second natural grass field, bleachers that could seat up to 1,000 fans, a home and visitor locker room, public restrooms and a press box is estimated to cost a little over $5 million. There would be parking for 250 vehicles. An eight-lane track was included an earlier design but dropped because there wasn’t enough space on the site.   

Recreation and Park subcommittee proposal for Avon High, September 2016

Timeline

  • September 2016: The Town Council and Board of Education hold a joint public hearing to comment about the proposal.
  • August 2016: Recreation and Park subcommittee meets throughout the summer and comes up with a proposal.
  • May 2016: Subcommittee of Recreation and Parks work with the town architect and Board of Education staff to begin work on their recommendation.
  • April 2016: Town Council decides to appoint a committee to come up with a final proposal for upgrading facilities at Avon High. Votes to spend $30,000 to modify plans to address issues with the proposal at the high school.
  • December 2015: Board of Education hears proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High.
  • June 2015: Town Council hears $3.21 million proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High by rebuilding tack and installing two synthetic turf fields.
  • April 2015: Subcommittee of the Recreation and Park committee recommend $3.21 million proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High by rebuilding tack and installing two synthetic turf fields.
  • November 2014: Architect provides town with two proposals for athletic complex on 15.25 acre parcel on Thompson Brook Road at site of former M.H. Rhodes Company, adjacent to the bike trail. Town Council asks for estimates for similar complex at the high school.
  • February 2014: Town Council unanimously votes to spend $40,000 for an architect to draw up plans to build a synthetic turf field and recreation complex on Thompson Brook Road
  • November 2013: Seventy people attend Avon Student Athletic Park SteeringCommittee meeting
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