NORTH SMITHFIELD – Money saved by the school district during the pandemic will be used for an overdue replacement of the synthetic football field and track at North Smithfield High School following a unanimous vote last week by members of the School Committee.
The board voted on Wednesday, June 30 to award a bid of $1,017,159 to firm FieldTurf Tarkett, following news that the facilities are no longer safe to use by a company hired to evaluate conditions.
“The field has lost fiber and is down to less than an inch of rubber,” said Arthur Eddy, principal of East Greenwich-based Traverse Landscape Architects. “If you don’t replace the turf, I recommend you don’t play on it.”
Repairs were performed three years ago to extend the life of the roughly 13-year-old track and field, installed in 2008, by adding rubber, but Eddy noted the facilities are now past the point where short-term work can be performed.
“Based on basic safety testing, the turf and track need to be replaced for the safe use of the athletes,” noted a facility survey report provided last week.
“You’re going to be dramatically increasing safety and playability with a new turf field and a modern turf field,” Eddy said.
The decision comes as a separate effort is underway to build a bathroom and concession stand by the field, in a Town Council-led initiative to have it built by a solar developer. That effort, put forth as part of approval of Green Development’s massive Iron Mine Hill Road solar project, is in the design and planning phase.
“With the help of the Town Council and the town administrator I hope to have bathrooms and a concession stand in there,” said School Committee Chairman James Lombardi. “With these additions we should be able to have statewide track football and soccer events. Those are money makers.”
Lombardi noted that hosting sporting events will allow the district to put money away that will be there when the field is due for its next replacement in 12 to 15 years.
“The future School Committee won’t have to ask the town for this money,” Lombardi said.
Funding for the current replacement reportedly comes through a district surplus amassed by saving funds through the pandemic.
“This is the only year that we’re able to even think about this, because circumstances have worked in our favor financially,” said Committee member Jean Meo. “We have no choice.”
“It took awhile to get here,” said member William Connell. “Because we have to do it, we’re doing it. It’s good to see.”
Reportedly the largest turf provider in the country, Tarkett was the low bidder on the project, and awarded the bid following recommendation by Traverse.
“We have a historic day in North Smithfield – not just for our schools – but for our community,” said Lombardi. “This is a community field. I am proud of the work we have done and the support we received from the Town Council and Town Administrator on this project and our operating budget.”