Privately-Funded Athletic Facility Gets School Committee Approval
Friends of Tewksbury Athletic Complex pitches lighted, synthetic turf stadium.
When Tewksbury resident Paul Hibner took a closer look at the plans for the new Tewksbury High School building project last winter, he was, like many others, disappointed in the bare bones athletic fields that had been included in the project.
"People were very surprised when they saw what we were actually getting," Hibner said. "There were visions early on in some of the presentations on the school that led one to believe that it was a much different sports complex than the one we ended up with."
So Hibner and and a handful of other Tewksbury residents including school board member Brian Dick, formed the Friends of Tewksbury High Athletic Complex. The organization's initial goal was to study the feasibility of upgrading the athletic facilities at the new Tewksbury High to include a lighted, synthetic turf, multi-purpose playing field. On Wednesday, the group brought forward to the school committee a plan to construct a privately-funded athletic complex that would include not only the lighted, synthetic turf field, but also a running track and stands with a press box and a seating capacity of up to 1500 people. The committee's proposal also calls for the construction of five tennis courts.
"Our intent is to put the things back in that were taken out, and raise the money to do that," Hibner said. "Our goal is to provide a first class, state of the art athletic facility. Something that compliments all the work that is being done over the next two to three years on the existing (building project)."
The Friends of Tewksbury High Athletic Complex sought support for a completely self-funded athletic complex, built with money raised through fund-raising, corporate donations and the sale of naming rights to the proposed athletic complex. The committee estimates that the project will cost $2.2 million and its goal is to raise that money and pay for the project without asking the town of Tewksbury to contribute a single dollar.
The school committee voted unanimously to support the Friends of Tewksbury High Athletic Complex in its endeavors, and gave the group permission to market the naming rights for the complex. The school committee will maintain the right to approve or deny naming rights contracts, based on the parties involved.
According to Hibner, the stadium naming rights alone could rasie as much as $1 million.
"We envision the likes of Market Basket, Raytheon, Coke or Pepsi, Gatorade and others looking for naming rights on the scoreboard and things like that," Hibner said. "It's a pretty aggressive set of goals that we have. We'll be doing a lot of selling."
The committee will also be applying for a number of grants though organizations such as the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities Grant Program, Liberty Mutual's Community Grant Program, the United States Tennis Association, the U.S. Lacrosse Association and First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program.
"There's a lot of money out there." Hibner said. "Some organizations have already come forward and approached us. There have been private funds offered from people who don't want their names mentioned yet."
Hibner pointed out in his presentation that the long-term maintenance costs of a synthetic turf field are considerably lower than those of natural grass fields, and that lighted, synthetic turf stadiums provide opportunities for greatly expanded hours of operations.
"You look at Woburn High's (lighted, synthetic turf) complex and you see that these things can generate new revenues," Hibner said. "Woburn charges $100 an hour for outside organizations to use their fields."
The expanded hours, the lighted track and the tennis courts would also open up opportunities for community-wide use of the facilities, according to Hibner.
"This isn't just something for the high school kids," he said. "The general public could use the running track, and youth sports organizations could use (the complex) to host tournaments."
The school commitee was unequivocal in its support.
"I think a facility like this is long past due in this town," school committee member Joseph Russell said. "I think it will be very successful."
"I do believe that if you were to raise your money and have all the approvals done prior to the process starting on the proposed fields you would probably save the town some money (by eliminating the costs associated with constructing a grass field)," committee member Dennis Francis said.
"I think what I'm hearing from my colleagues up here is that we whole-heartedly support this program going after private funding, going after corporate sponsorships and going after grants," school committee chairperson Krissy Polimeno said. ""It's a smart business move and it's exactly what we need in this community."
Hibner indicated that the athletic complex committee is still seeking additional volunteers to help with the fund-raising.
"Anyone with any information on grants, or corporate connections or any other ideas is welcome to get involved and help us out," Hibner said.