Panel advocates improvements to BC track, field

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
A panel appointed by the mayor to review the fields situation in Bristol voted to approve an update to the Bristol Central High School track and field, which is expected to cost $750,000.
The panel discussed three possible options, and went with the one that would change the draining system, which has been in place since about 1999, to make the field safer, and expand the field to a 200 foot playing area so that it is a “tournament” playing field, according to Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) regulations.
Right now, the field limits the types of games that can be played, specifically soccer tournament games. With this option the panel approved, synthetic turf is still on the table, however the members of this group agreed that it won’t make a decision to fund a synthetic turf field until the city’s Fields Committee presents a concrete plan that includes a location.
There was definitely a consensus among the group that a multi-purpose artificial field is needed in the city, however where to put it is the question.
Ed Swicklas, superintendent of the Parks Department, said the department hasn’t come up with just one location, but has suggested Casey Field, Page Park, Muzzy Field, Rockwell Park, and West Bristol School. Swicklas said, however, that the department, fields committee, Board of Education and other responsible parties have not met all together to discuss options.
City Councilor Rich Miecznikowski, who sits on the Mayor’s Capital Improvement Committee, said he wants to see the panel, fields committee, Parks Department and others make the final decisions, and to not waste money on a consultant. He added he’d like to talk to state legislators to see what kind of funding the city can get for the project, which could ultimately cost up to $1.5 million.
Cheryl Thibeault, chair of the city’s Finance Committee who also sits on the panel, said she is struggling with the pros and cons of synthetic turf and said she needs to see a “firm plan” with the location, cost, how to treat the turf and more before she can make a final decisions. She said she has been researching artificial turf and said there is a lot to consider, like irrigation systems if the field gets too hot and how to keep bacteria off the field so players aren’t getting sick with diseases like MRSA.
Dave Mills heads the city’s Fields Committee and said “everyone understands that we need another field,” adding that the city’s fields are getting overused and stressed, which impacts players and their games.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said before any decisions are made about funding and approving the field, there needs to be a set plan in place.
“We need to look at the total picture; what can we afford, what do the taxpayers want to pay,” Cockayne said.
One of the city’s Park Board Commissioners Cindy Donovan said at its meeting last Wednesday she would like to see the multi-purpose artificial field be placed on the vacant downtown lot. She said the spot would be ideal, as it already has parking and lights and would bring people downtown to visit the businesses that surround the area.