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Canton BOE to consider track and field proposal

CANTON, Nov. 13, 2010 – A proposal for a new all-purpose track and field facility at Canton High will be presented to the Canton Board of Education at the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. at the Community Center on Dyer Avenue.

The proposal includes a synthetic turf football field inside the six-lane track, a field house with rest rooms, bleachers and lights. Part of the proposal includes funds to build a new practice and softball field near the current field hockey field and reconfigure the driveway into the school.

The track and field facility would be built in the upper parking lot near the current football field and take up part of deSimas Field, currently used as a practice field at the high school.

The proposal came from a nine-person temporary study committee appointed by the Board of Education in June to investigate the idea, according to Lou Daniels, chairman of the study group.

Members included a former member of the Board of Finance, a former member of the Board of Selectman, two citizens at large, a former member of the Board of Education, a member from the Zoning Commission, former Canton High athletic director Nancy Grace, current CHS athletic director John Bement and current Canton High cross country coach Tim O’Donnell, who has also coached indoor and outdoor track for years in the state. Daniels formerly served on the Board of Education and Board of Selectmen.

“It will truly be an asset to the town,” Daniels said. “A community facility.”

With the synthetic turf, the facility could host football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse games for high school and community organizations. Lights open up opportunities for more use of the facility.

With the growth of youth soccer and lacrosse leagues in town and the addition of lacrosse programs at the high school, demand has been rising for playing fields in Canton. Negotiations between Canton Youth Soccer and the town firemen to use the Memorial Fields complex near the transfer station recently broke down.

It could possibly be available for rental to other teams. In October, Canton’s football team rented Simsbury High’s facility to host a night game against Avon. On Nov. 24, Lewis Mills’ football team is renting the Simsbury facility to play Wolcott Tech.

Synthetic turf feels like natural grass feel because it consists of long blades of plastic grass. The blades are surrounded by a shock-absorbing fill made from graded sand and ground rubber that allows players to dig their cleats into the surface and make cuts as though they are on grass. An oil base in the synthetic fibers coats the turf and prevents turf burn.

A cost for the proposal has not been determined, although Daniels estimated it may be in the $3 million range. How the facility will be paid for hasn’t been determined yet, either.

One of the reasons for forming the committee and developing the proposal is to allow for the solicitation of grants from federal, state and private organizations.

“We want a plan in place so we can be eligible for some federal or local grants,” Daniels said. “We recognize this will take a few years.”

The committee will be asking the Board of Education to accept their proposal and move it onto the Board of Selectmen to continue the development of the proposal.

Daniels said the next step would be environmental testing of the site and reviewing the proposed design.

Daniels said the proposal didn’t cost the town any money. A local architect, Philip Doyle of Landscape Architect Design Associates in Simsbury, helped draw up the proposal.

The recommended reconfiguration of the parking lot would help alleviate traffic jams in and out of the school facility and create an additional 100 parking spaces.

The committee also examined eight other sites in town for the facility but chose the high school, in part, to reduce transportation costs. A facility elsewhere in town would cost the school to transport the students to the facility for practices and games.

Formed in June, the committee met through the summer and solicited feedback and comments from residents who live near the high school. With the presentation, the committee will disband. But Daniels doubted that the committee members will pull away from the project.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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