(Night 1) Blocksidge Field Improvements Proposal Comes Up Short

The artificial turf and other improvements got a slim majority at Town Meeting Monday but not the necessary two-thirds majority.


Proponents of a proposed $2.6 million artificial turf field, new stands and other improvements at Blocksidge Field failed by about 30 votes to win approval at Town Meeting Monday night.

The measure, which was supported by the town's Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee and three Selectmen, won 154 votes. It needed 185 to garner the two-thirds majority of those who attended the Town Meeting. 

One hundred and twenty of those voting at Town Meeting opposed the measure, which would have required that the town borrow $1,857,856 to pay for the new field.

An additional $750,000 would have had to be raised from private sources before the town would begin to rebuild the field for all major field sports, install lighting and build new seating. About $450,000 of the private funding has been pledged, said Paul Gorman, who made the presentation for the One Field for All Committee.

Selectman Barry Greenfield and others urged Town Meeting delegates support the proposal on its merits, investing in the town's infrastructure.

Concerns about health issues and cost

Opponents, led by Selectman David Van Dam, voiced concerns about the costs of the debt service and about the potential health risks of the artificial turf.

Much was made of the "crumbled rubber" that cushions the turf as a base. The material is made of old tires that opponents, such as Board of Health member Dr. Larry Block, argued contained toxic materials.

Opponents painted a vivid picture of storm waters washing the crumbled tire bits onto the nearby beach.

Block said the three-member board of health opposed the construction of the artifical field. In addition to the materials used, Block said the board was concerned about the heat levels generated by the turf and an increase in knee injuries.

Both sides cited numerous studies on artificial turf, with each side claiming that the studies supported their position.

Former Swampscott resident Chris Huntress, whose Huntress Sports has been advising the One Field for All Committee, said that 20 states have investigated the health risks of artifical fields and found them to be safe.

High School football coach Steve Dembowski said, "The park is in terrible shape." He said without the private funding support from a few families, the field would be so bad that it would be unplayable.

"This is a small price to pay for the kids who play sports," Dembowski said.

About 1,400 children would benefit from the field

It was estimated that 1,400 children play football, soccer, lacrosse or field hockey in town.

Proponents including Tom Driscoll said the artificial surface would have the benefit of taking pressure off stressed fields which have deteriorated from over use.

Jackie Kinney, former chairman of the School Committee, said the lighted field would allow for night games, which would be the "hub of the community." She said it would give young people a place to go, which they do not have now.

Opponents argued that the town has more pressing needs, particularly in flood control. Van Dam said the cost to the town would be $216,876.44 per year in debt service.

"It would be great to have a new field, but I am not sure it is the right priority for the town," Van Dam said.

He said he doubted if $2.6 million would be the full cost.

A+ Schools May 08, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Disappointing, but not entirely suprising. I do hope this same group comes back to Town Meeting next year and tries again with more money (selling the naming rights to the stadium perhaps) and more support. You may also want to consider a virtual or real tour of some of the other towns with new field-turf stadiums. Seeing one of these stadiums will change the thinking of some of the detractors. Also, to be quite candid, Mr. Greenfield did not help your cause with the theatrics of his cell phone. Several people around me, many of whom were undecided and listening carefully, found his comments disrespectful and pompous. Terry, can you please inform the community the reason a 2/3s super-majority approval was needed instead of the usual simple majority vote. Also, what happens now to the $1.8 million? Is it 'real' money? If do, is it returned to the general fund? Returned to the tax payers? More money for the schools?
Lenny May 08, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Well it someone wants to organize a bake sale to raise funds, they'd better do so before August 1st.
Jim Caswell May 08, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Someone should make a motion tonight for reconsideration of the article or try to modify the article to at least get lights installed (Haven't seen any forums to show Swampscott is about the only field that isn't lit)
BenC May 08, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Extremely disappointing. Blocksidge Field is already in shambles--the stands are in deplorable condition, to the point where they could be considered dangerous. Maintaining the field is a massive job and therefore we often find the Field closed. I hope that this proposal comes back, and that the nay-sayers see the importance of it.
Citizen Swamp May 08, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Meanwhile we proceed with movie set negotiations to rent the practice football field and parking lot. Wonder if the moonbats will protest about the environmental damage! We certainly didn't protest too much when we rented our under performing middle school as a movie set for the home stretch of the school year. Someone should write a screen play. CS
BigBlue4Eva May 08, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Coach Dembowski, If I were you I would move on and go coach a program where they care about football and will appreciate your talents and passion. Your expertise and dedication to the town is falling by the wayside . BC High is looking for a coach and I for one would come watch you coach at a school that cares about their student athletes!
Terry Date (Editor) May 08, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Thanks for the questions, Allen. We'll ask Thomas or Dave the question tonight and post the answers tomorrow.
Tom Plumbley May 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Hold on to your seat, the ride has just begun. They will be back tonight looking for a revote. They simply aren't good losers. By the way, where was the soccer support? Maybe they already know about the field that was built 5 years ago for them and the town has done a poor job maintaining it. It is in horrendous shape. How about a plan? Who will oversee the field(and don't say Danielle Strauss!)? Who will maintain it(don't say the DPW, we've seen first hand the poor job they do)? If Martin Goldman is such a big proponent of recreation, why is he blocking the rail trail? You have to have a good plan supported by good people which they don't have. By the way, can't wait to see Dembowski refuse to play teams with artificial turfs next year!
LargeBlue May 08, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Oh really? Does Gerry have more hands that he could have raised when people were voting? Sounds like you just learned how to use a computer and are using it to to take jabs at people. Stick to coaching, Paul. You're making yourself look bad.
Citizen Swamp May 08, 2012 at 09:40 PM
TP, You obviously misinterpreted Coach D's comment. If Dr. Block and his band of scare mongers are so concerned about the health risks of artificial turf, then the school shouldn't allow our athletes to compete at away venues who have the turf. Of course that isn't possible because many of our opponents have recognized that there are not significant risks and play their games on the dreaded carpet. CS
BigBlue4Eva May 08, 2012 at 10:22 PM
For all you crazies that believe that these turf fields are dangerous...... here you go! http://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=91 Pull it together for the kids!!!
Tom Plumbley May 08, 2012 at 10:55 PM
CS, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Revere, Saugus, Swampscott, and Winthrop have grass fields in the NEC. Beverly(new), Gloucester(opens next Fall) and Lynn have turf fields. So 70% of the teams will have grass fields next Fall, down from 80% this year. I'd like to see the town fix the current fields now. Why have they been waiting?
Mac May 09, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Not sure what the potential health risks are from materials in a turf field, but are we really at the point where we are standing in the way of an improvement that will allow players from many different sports to get out on a quality surface and exercise?? Argue it on the finances, but not the health impact.
Jim Caswell May 09, 2012 at 03:15 AM
All of those named have lights as do the rest of the NEC, I think Swampscott is the only town that doesn't host night games - But like most major expenses, when we get around to making the appropriation possible we end up paying double the fees and find it hard to match the private donations that have been offered
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 03:41 AM
TP, Why are you focusing only on football? Our teams that play on fields (Field hockey, soccer, lax and even baseball) all play a few games a season on artificial surfaces. In addition to NEC league games we compete against many non league teams with turf. Lynn even has a turf infield at Fraser Field, the safety issue was a red herring. Dr. Block is a competative sports hater and a grass lover, (without fertilizer and weed control of course) so our teams play on weeds and bare ground. By the way Beverly will continue to play on a grass field that is used for football only. Danvers is looking in to artificial turf, as is Winthrop. CS
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Mr . Massei, Is this the stat you were refering to in the link you posted. "There were close to 18 injuries for every 100,000 exposures among athletes playing on infill surfaces, compared to 14 injuries for every 100,000 practices or games that took place on artificial turf without fill or on natural grass." If your a stat lover, you know that the numbers shown are statisitically even. Proving that athletes get hurt on all surfaces. The problem with our field/bleacher complex is we don't know whats going to happen first (cancel games because of poor field conditions, or because bleachers collapse)! CS Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/30/football-knee-injuries-likelier-on-artificial-turf-than-grass/#ixzz1uLB3ng1v
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 03:49 AM
TP, Fields can't be fixed, they suffer from overuse! CS
Terry Date (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Allen, the $1.8 million became a moot point with the failure of the article, according to the town administrator and his staff. Had the article passed, the town would have had authority to bond the $1.8 million so long as the private donations were collected by the deadline. But since there was no approval to bond from Town Meeting there is no $1.8 million. Also, state law requires the super-majority vote, two-thirds, for town meeting to approve a bond for a project, they said.
Liz May 09, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Many of you have provided the answer to this issue. First schedule the sports across the town on the other playing fields, I know we only have one football field. Second hold the DPW responsible for what they are suppose to be doing, thier Mission Statement on thier website states this. Third let the School's come up with the funds. Most of us are not opposed to the renovations it is the money.
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 05:41 PM
There is something called preventive maintenence. Our DPW doesn't follow this. Take a look at the soccer field which was built with the new school in 2007. It is in horrible shape. It doesn't drain well(probably the same people designed it that will be designing this proposal)and nothing is done for work on it. This winter, a rubber mat was left on the field, killing the grass underneath it. The field does not suffer from overuse because it is purposely limited. Now the fields will never be great, but the DPW needs to make some sort of effort!
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I believe that Gerry probably could have found a way to pay for the upgrade without having to take out a bond. It can be done, but it takes some fiscal management. That is how the Police Station should have been financed also. I can't wait for the new school proposal in the Fall, probably 50 million!!
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Bety & TP, No doubt you are experts on turf management. We had our chance to rectify a huge problem with the Blocksidge project. First it was the rubber pellets, then the environment, then the DPW. Face it your solution is no solution. CS
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Bety, I will agree with you on one point. The silence from the School Committee and Administration was deafening at Town Meeting. The only person who spoke was former member Jackie Kinney. As to your assertion that the "no" voters only objection was cost, I have a hard time with that. The "no's" were not going to change their minds, even when their objections were refuted. CS
Liz May 09, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Sorry CS totally disagree. It is all about accountability and due diligence. All too often this town goes in the back door rather than the front. Meanwhile I am quite sure our kids will have fun, good games and make great memories, whether on an ok field or a state of the art.
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Bety, Yeah I guess you're right. It'll be a memorable experience for the Thanksgiving or Powder Puff game with condemned bleachers and a torn up field. What the heck things could be worse. CS
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 07:49 PM
If the DPW had simply kept up with repairs, we wouldn't be in the state that we are in now. You only have to look at the 5 year old field at the high school to realize what happens if they are not taken care of. You want a solution? Get an outside firm to handle the fields. Give them 100K per year(as compared to the 220K we would have paid under this proposal) and start getting the fields back to where they should be!
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 08:18 PM
TP, Read the warrant, the Town pays $100K annually alone for mowing to an outside contractor. Next solution? CS
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I'd like them to spend 100K more than they currently are. But heck, the DPW could at least mow, except they would probably drive a dump truck onto the middle of the field to take the lawn mower off!
Susanne Krivit June 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM
The Synthetic Turf Council is a trade organization for the artificial grass industry. Not exactly neutral.


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