NORTH SMITHFIELD – A representative from a local non-profit football and cheer program is retracting statements regarding alleged bad faith dealings involving the North Smithfield High School football field made at a meeting of the Town Council on Monday.
Xpress Football and Cheer Football Coordinator Gino Olaes spoke this week about the organization’s frustrations over rental of the field, which is managed by Wide World of Indoor Sports under the name MACH 1, through an agreement signed in February with the North Smithfield School Department.
“Following the Town Council meeting, information previously not available or communicated to the Xpress Board of Directors came to light,” noted a release from Olaes on behalf of the program on Saturday, August 12. “After reviewing this information, we realized that the characterization of WWIS/M1FC and their representative Rob Bonnell as presented by us was misleading and we would like to correct the record.”
According to the release, Director of Soccer Operations Bonnell has met with Xpress leadership several times since the Monday meeting.
“Together we have continually put the children and residents of this community at the forefront of each conversation,” it noted. “We believe that Mr. Bonnell, through his words and actions throughout these conversations has been transparent and focused on the kids and residents of this community, which extends beyond these recent conversations.”
The statement marks an about-face on Olaes’s public comment, where he questioned the wisdom of having a for-profit company manage a community resource, and was critical of MACH 1 for not accommodating the Xpress team. The synthetic turf field was replaced in 2021 at a cost of $1 million.
“We believe a plan to effectively communicate together moving forward has been established and is sustainable into the future. Xpress Football & Cheer currently has no grievances with WWIS/M1FC and look forward to working with them into the future, all while keeping all kids that participate in youth sports in the forefront of our minds,” Olaes said Saturday.
Bonell said he, WWIS and its MACH 1 Futbol Club are proud to have partnered with the North Smithfield Public Schools and youth organizations in the area such as Xpress Football.
The Xpress program is open to kids age 4 through 14, serves more than 200 football players and cheerleaders from the Blackstone Valley. Last week, Olaes noted that 95 of their participants reside in North Smithfield, and the league has utilized the NSHS field since 1995.
“We have worked closely with many non-profit organizations for the past 14 years at our indoor facility, and we now have the privilege to aid NSPS in operating their beautifully reconstructed Veterans Memorial Stadium as well,” Bonnell said.
According to the agreement made early this year, WWIS pre-purchased 350 hours of field time at a rate of $100 an hour for a total contracted price of $35,000. Previous to the deal, the school department’s average rentals per year since 2016 were $18,399. The agreement includes an option to extend the partnership for an additional two years, and dictates the town-based non-profits, such as Xpress, receive a discounted rate for rentals.
WWIS also pays NSPS $750 a month as a rental fee for the concession stand that has since been outfitted with all necessary equipment
for professional operations with fully background-checked and food safety certified employees. The agreement also affords North Smithfield athletes indoor field time at WWIS at no cost for safer field conditions when weather or poor outdoor field conditions interfere with play time.
In April, WWIS made an arrangement with adult, semi-pro team the Southern New England Admirals, who have used the field for their home games in 2023.
Bonnell said it was advantageous for both parties to work together to, “ensure the complex stays well maintained, secure, and properly scheduled for school use, rentals for income, and open time for North Smithfield residents while keeping in line with current NSPS Rental
School Committee Chairman James Lombardi noted that money from the arrangement with WWIS is set aside for the future School Committee and Town Council to have the funds to replace the field.
“As in the past, North Smithfield Schools have priority usage of the fields, which take up most of the time during the school year,” Lombardi said. “With the success of our teams there is less time available to rent. I understand that the management company has provided solutions to many organizations requesting access and was surprised to hear of the complaints from this organization. I have seen the management company go over and above to work with the community, including providing access to a local organization for free last year.”
“The bathrooms, concession stand, and field are open to outside organizations more now than ever,” Lombardi said.