2010-02-12 / Front Page

Turf Wars

Doyle Field project draws fire
STORY BY DIANE C. BEAUDOIN

Ray Racine and Pat LaPointe, both of the DPW, look at turf samples as they decide which is the best product to resurface Doyle Field. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ROSEBERRY Ray Racine and Pat LaPointe, both of the DPW, look at turf samples as they decide which is the best product to resurface Doyle Field. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ROSEBERRY A controversial project is slated to begin shortly, one that has some city councilors at odds with each other, and some city officials.

The resurfacing of Doyle Field with artificial turf has caused some strong discussions on both sides of the issue, however the project will go ahead as the vote taken by City Council has taken place.

A new twist to the turf wars has recently occurred, with Department of Public Works Director Patrick LaPointe saying after a meeting with the Doyle Field Commission, work will now be held off until after Leominster High School graduation and the Starburst event are completed. Slated start date is going to be June 14.

City Councilor at-Large Claire Freda has been the most outspoken on the issue, noting that not enough information about the resurfacing and its consequences was given prior to the vote.

“No one said ahead of time that Leominster High graduation would not be able to be held at Doyle this year until after we voted. There was also no discussion of things like our yearly Starburst festivities not being able to be held there due to the situation with artificial turf. You cannot hold events like that as it will ruin the turf, which we are spending so much money on,” Freda said.

Freda said the money that will be used on the project is the final reimbursement payment from the state or three school improvement projects in the 1980s.

Ward 3 Councilor David Cormier also expressed concerns about the project, saying he was also not aware that festivities other than sporting events can’t be held on the turf.

“It is a lot of money to spend, and to me, this should not be a priority,” he said.

Cormier was not part of the council that approved the undertaking.

“There is not a person out there that would not want artificial turf for sports, but it is not a priority,” he said.

Cormier cited other things the city could use the money for, such as major projects at the high school and paying off some debt on the library.

Cormier said the new turf cannot handle large groups of people, such as the thousands who attend Starburst. Lawn chairs, coolers, food and drink will be banned from the field.

“You cannot have large congregations on synthetic surfaces, so this would only be for sporting events. Doyle Field was not intended for just sports. It is for the use of the entire city,” he noted.

Councilor at-Large Susan Chalifoux-Zephir favors improving the field, making it safer for the athletes, sports programs and youth teams.

“One benefit [of the new turf] is that it makes it more usable for a variety of teams, not just Leominster. We could host playoff games and tournaments,” she said.

Her vision is to broaden the use of Doyle Field, and get a return on the investment.

“We can generate some revenue. It was a hard decision for the council, but the long-term plan is making it into a field for all teams, and generate some extra revenue,” she said.

LaPointe said turf installation should take 10 to 12 weeks, and the field should be ready for fall football season.

“This is about safety. The surface is made for sports where the athletes don’t get hurt. You achieve the hardness you are looking for, and this is the best for the kids,” he said.

LaPointe said the turf is a multi-sports surface, which can be used for soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey.

Ray Racine of the DPW said he and LaPointe have done massive research about artificial turf, and in the long run it has its advantages.

“There is no mowing, the lines are painted on and they do not have to be redone. The drainage system underneath is very advanced, and we are looking to get 12 to 13 years out of this,” he said.

“We have been to other places that have this type of turf, and they do not allow food or drinks on the surface. It ruins it in no time.”

If the field were to be used for other than sporting events, some strict rules will be implemented.

“Doyle Field deserves this, and we cannot abuse it,” LaPointe said.

Lapointe said the project is going to be a “beautiful one, and we will meet with the Starburst Committee very soon to discuss what will happen for next year. There will be some very strict restrictions placed on the use of the field, and we will go from there.”

Freda said she does not believe this is what Bernard Doyle had in mind when he donated the land to the city.

“I think Mr. Doyle would have said you have a problem here,” Freda said.

She added that there is no maintenance plan in place for when the field is completed.

Freda does agree that the artificial surface is safer to play ball on, but disagrees with the field being turned into a sports-only venue that’s not accessible to the rest of the city.

“What about the rest of the people who do not have a family member on the team, or who want to see other events at the location?,” she said. “I would say we needed to put more thought behind it, and am sorry it just got pushed through.”

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