Last spring, the school department began a formal study of the possibility of renovating the athletic stadium at Dracut High. Huntress Associates Inc., a leader in sports facility development, was retained by the district to develop a master plan that could act as a roadmap for the community to consider.
The current grass field at Beaudry Field cannot stand up to current use and at many times of the year is virtually unplayable. The secondary practice and playing fields in the complex also subject athletes to difficult playing conditions: the absence of grass in large sections of the fields, with heavy dust when it’s dry, and mud when it’s wet. Regardless of how talented our maintenance department is, a team practicing and playing games on a grass field quickly wears out a field that cannot be restored until after a sports season is complete.
The current stadium was also not designed to support sports other than football. With the rapid explosion in the popularity of lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey, students playing those sports are not able to play home games in our stadium because the field dimensions do not support those sports.
In addition to the field issues, the stadium itself is aging and will need to be renovated in the very near future. The lighting is insufficient and is so outdated that the district is no longer able to secure replacement fixtures because they are not produced anymore.
In conversations with the architect, the district conveyed that it would only consider a safe and long lasting synthetic surface that was large enough to ensure it met the size requirements of all field sports, and that the renovation of the stadium itself must retain as much of the existing infrastructure as possible to ensure that the cost was as modest as possible. Now, from those conversations and considerations comes a glimpse of what could be…
In the master plan, with the movement of the existing visitors seating structure to the south end of the facility, a new 84,000 square foot synthetic playing surface would extend to Complex Road, ensuring a regulation-sized field for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and football. The current home seating and press box would be retained, energy-efficient LED lighting would be installed, and accessibility compliance ensured.
The cost of the project? Approximately $1,500,000. The time-frame? Given the limited scope of the project, it is anticipated that the project would take 3 months to complete.
The Dracut community has been generous in its support of the athletic facilities of the schools (the most recent examples being the funding of the renovation of the athletic track and the construction of a restroom facility). In response to that generosity, the Dracut Public Schools has always provided community groups with access to its fields. The renovation of the athletic stadium and the installation of a synthetic playing surface would be a community endeavor and would allow for the continuation of the long-standing relationship between the schools and the community.
Beaudry Field has provided decades of memories to student-athletes and their parents. It has, however, given all that it can. It and its sister fields are unable to provide consistent and safe playing surfaces. The lighting is insufficient and obsolete. The hundreds of student-athletes who play soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey deserve the ability to play in a facility that is safe, dynamic, and worthy of their dedication and commitment.
Once the current Billerica High building project is complete, Dracut High will be the only school in the Merrimack Valley Conference (Andover, North Andover, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Central Catholic, Billerica, Methuen, Haverhill, Lowell, Lawrence) without a synthetic playing surface. In the coming months, the conversations about the realities of the existing Dracut athletic fields and the possibilities for a new, multi-use facility will continue.
To that end, the Dracut School Committee’s Athletic Field Development Subcommittee will be meeting in the coming weeks and months to discuss this issue and hear from community groups and individuals. Those meetings will be, as always, open to the public. I also welcome any questions. I can be reached at 957-2660 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.