ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas recently announced his plan to replace Attleboro High School’s track and field facility with a $2.5 million project, which will also replace the grass football field with synthetic turf. The new surface will also be used for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. The work will include adding new bleachers, fencing and a replacement for the old press box. A new concession stand and bathroom will also be built, although that part of the project will be funded by boosters and fundraising efforts. The mayor aims to pay for the project over 15 years, at $262,000 per year.
“The need for the replacement of the track and field facility is undeniable,” Dumas wrote in a memo to city and school employees. “Despite our repeated attempts to maintain and repair the track, the reality is that the track has become irreparable. The existing track has been unusable for years. In fact, the Attleboro High School track team has been unable to host a home track meet since 2008.”
The decision didn’t come completely out of left field, as the school recently received correspondence from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the accreditation authority presiding over Attleboro High School. The letter requested an update “on the district's work and findings to identify funding to address the unsafe and unusable condition of the track facility."
Dumas contended that the artificial grass would be the most cost-effective option. “Annual maintenance costs are drastically reduced and synthetic turf is more durable than grass,” he affirmed. “More games and practices can be played on the new artificial turf. This alone will allow other fields to be taken off-line and revived.”
City councilor Jeremy Denlea supported the mayor’s efforts in an email to the Attleboro-Seekonk Patch. “This proposed new facility is a welcome solution to a very serious problem. The AHS track used to host different local and regional meets as well as the local Special Olympics; all of these events have since been moved due to safety concerns. I want to see Attleboro High School's athletics facilities become the powerhouse they once were."
The city’s last capital improvement plan also identified the track as an urgent need. Dumas said this was because its level of disrepair, “poses a safety hazard to students and the general public.” A school committee recently budgeted $13,530 for a feasibility study on the prospective project.
Dumas warned in his memo that grants and other “free” sources of funding would be difficult to obtain.
“Unfortunately, repeated attempts to secure private funding for this project through organizations such as the National Football League Grassroots Program have been unsuccessful. In addition, the Massachusetts School Building Authority has made it clear that track and field projects are not eligible for reimbursement.”
The grassroots program is a non-profit that identifies its mission as helping schools “improve the quality, safety and accessibility of football fields in underserved areas of NFL markets.”
Dumas ended his proposal with a bit of a rallying cry: “Although we will continue to seek available grants and private funding wherever possible, this part of our journey towards restoring Attleboro's flagship school into one of the top high schools in the Commonwealth is entirely up to us."