If a field is rested properly during a 30-day active growth period, managed with an integrated turf management plan and proper drainage, it could sustain about 250 events per year.

Consultant estimates athletic facility at $2.4 million

The prospect of catching a big-time touchdown pass under the lights at the high school is, at the moment, more dream than reality.

There are no field lights at the high school football stadium. But an engineering firm hired by the Narragansett, RI School Committee said the town could consider a $2.4 million, state-of-the-art facility at the high school in the next few years. 

Gale Associates, which conducted a study of the town’s athletic fields, presented its findings Monday night during a work session between the School Committee and Town Council. About 35 residents, school administrators and town staff turned out for the hour-and-a-half session.

Gale Associates’ Director of Civil Engineering William Seymour said during the meeting most of the fields in town – including baseball diamonds at Sprague Park and Domenic Christofaro Park – are overtaxed and have poor drainage systems.

If a field is rested properly during a 30-day active growth period, managed with an integrated turf management plan and proper drainage, it could sustain about 250 events per year.

The town’s 13 municipal athletic fields host, on average, about 300 practices, games and recreational activities a year. 

“That represents two uses a day in the spring playing period and the fall playing period,” he said. “That is unsustainable.”

The School Committee approved a $17,100 contract with Gale Associates in November at the recommendation of the Athletic Fields Subcommittee, which consists of representatives from the Town Council, School Committee, staff and the public. 

The engineering firm studied turf conditions, drainage and field geometry at ballfields at schools and municipal parks.

Seymour said if the town decides to enhance facilities, the high school football stadium and track are the top priorities. 

The football field has decent turf condition, but given its low-lying location, has very poor drainage. There are no lights on-site, preventing the town from hosting Friday night football games; and the seating at the stadium is not compliant with codes in several areas, including access for disabled people.

Burgeoning track programs at the high school and middle school are unable to host track meets because the surface of the track is in such disrepair.

“You’ve got lots of structural dips and cracks,” said Seymour. An artificial turf field – similar to the one installed at Moses Brown School in Providence – could handle up to 600 events per year, easing stress on other fields in town.

“The downside is cost,” said Seymour. “They are expensive today and they are expensive when you replace the carpet 13, 14 or 15 years down the road.”

Seymour estimated that it would cost $2.4 million for a new facility, which would include $800,000 for the turf field and $500,000 for the new track. Soft costs, such as permitting and engineering, also were included in the estimate.

Though the committee floated ideas of private financing, grants and fund-raising, financial details were not discussed at length.

“The School Department certainly doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of money to do the renovations at the high school that we need,” said School Committee Chairwoman Tammy McNeiece. 

The School Department spends about $25,000 a year for watering, lining, mowing and aerating the football field. That number would drop to $1,000 with the installation of an artificial turf field, which would last between 25 and 30 years.

During the meeting, members of the audience said a new field and new track would benefit the entire community. A new facility in Narragansett could host Rhode Island Interscholastic League playoffs, and more people would walk the track for exercise regularly.

According to information presented at the meeting, the $2.4 million project at the high school would be included in next year’s budget, followed by renovations to the baseball diamonds at Christofaro Park and the high school.  

Gale Associates is continuing work on schematic drawings that will be completed in the fall.