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Darien Athletic Foundation seeks $5.8M project for fields

Published 2:53 pm, Friday, December 21, 2012
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A month ago, Schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone was approached by the Darien Athletic Foundation about the Sunny Day Project, whose goal is to resurface the athletic fields with artificial turf.

In its memo, the DAF wrote, "The participation in youth sports has grown over the past decade, while the field capacity has not, creating a shortage of field space. Because of the difficulty of creating new field space, a way to improve utilization of existing field space is to turf existing grass fields."

The idea for the project came to be after the organizers, Pete Graham and Mark Maybell, saw how many rain-outs sporting events have endured in the past few years.

"A few of us in the youth sports organizations started talking about the amount of rain-outs and the growing population of all the youth sports in Darien," Graham said.

At the Board of Education meeting on Dec. 11, Falcone presented DAF's vision in hopes of moving the project forward, so the foundation can start asking all of the questions that need to be answered before it can begin.

"They're ambitious and they want to move forward, and I think they have a very viable position, but it's not without a lot of things to consider," Falcone said.

Among those considerations are issues regarding planning and zoning, wetlands, maintenance, volume of use, traffic and parking, schedules, impact on neighbors and funding.

"I'm here tonight because there's some momentum here," Falcone said. "This comes forward as almost a pre-contemplative gift, but it's a contemplative gift, but they have to do some preliminary stuff. We have an idea of how we think we might move forward."

Board of Education member Heather Shea said part of the discussion about this project should be broader than just Darien High School fields.

"It has to encompass the community and the town because the high school is very constrained at this point from a neighborhood impact," Shea said.

Board member Claire Sartori said the idea of the fields having to be taken offline for the turf to be installed was another consideration.

Member James Plutte said he loved the proposal.

Falcone recommended the administration move forward to work in collaboration with the DAF to "ultimately come back with a plan that is feasible based on the feedback we get from a number of different town bodies and others, including district administrations' thoughts on what is doable and what might not be."

Graham said the expectation was that the board would see the Sunny Day Project as a contemplative gift. The DAF estimates the project needs $5,885,000 to be built and the organization would raise the money.

The project would involve:

turfing and re-fencing the junior varsity field behind the visitors' stand;

adding a new stadium scoreboard;

adding stadium concession stands and bathrooms;

improving visitor stands;

initiating a replacement program for all turf fields;

purchasing turf field maintenance machines;

re-sodding, re-fencing and installing track throwing event platforms at the junior varsity softball field;

improving the dugouts;

increasing the current oval turf field to a regulation soccer field in 2018;

turfing the upper Middlesex fields;

money to cover unforeseen annual maintenance issues; and

estimated professional services, such as those for an attorney, architect, surveyor and engineer.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews