Improvements to East Providence High athletic facilities continue

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EAST PROVIDENCE — While the overall condition of the East Providence High School building itself remains an immediate and significant concern, improvements to the athletic facilities and fields surrounding it are continuing in earnest.

The building's infrastructure has received some $10 million in needed upgrades over the past few years and several more millions are expected to be required to meet standards set by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for EPHS to maintain its academic accreditation.

Not necessarily a pressing need, though a part of the NEASC process, the school's athletic facilities are much further along to meeting both mandatory and aesthetic requirements.

Much like the main building, the facilities had fallen deep into disrepair. So on the heels of recent upgrades to East Providence's softball diamond and renovation of the two gymnasiums, a new soccer/lacrosse field is being constructed in the rear of the school building. The field takes the place of what were four auxiliary tennis courts that had become dilapidated.

"It started with the softball field and continued with the gym. Now we're doing this field. It goes to our continuing attempts to upgrade our facilities," East Providence Athletic Director Bob Duarte said Friday, Nov. 22, as he checked in on the progress of the project.

City Engineer Kevin Croke, who is also the head hockey coach for EPHS, is overseeing construction, which began in October with the demolition of the old tennis courts. Some dirt has changed places, a berm being removed on the north end of the ground and a low lying area filled in on the south side to level off the area. Grading of the field is currently underway.

Mr. Duarte said he expects the field to be hydroseeded before the winter. He has been cleared by Schools Superintendent Kim Mercer to seek information about the cost of installing an irrigation system. According to Mr. Duarte, Pierce Stadium Supervisor Joe Medeiros has advised the new field could be ready for use by the EPHS soccer programs in mid-fall of 2014. It will certainly be able for play by the Townies' lacrosse teams in the spring of 2015.

"The state of the tennis courts was basically the same since when they were built in the 1950s, and they really weren't being used. It was also going to cost about $150,000 to fix them," Mr. Duarte said.

He continued, "What we're doing now isn't really costing us anything. It's been a city-wide effort. The Highway Department is doing all the work. City Engineer Kevin Croke is overseeing everything. The superintendent has been a wonderful point person, saying let's do this. Buildings Supervisor Ed Catelli, Rob Walker from the Highway Department, everyone from the city has been really good about getting us everything we need. The city has been fabulous helping out the school department."

The need to have more green space for the EPHS athletic teams, especially during the spring season, became especially evident with the introduction of lacrosse to the sports menu some five years ago. Without a proper place to prepare, lacrosse was impinging upon the baseball diamond's outfield on the south end of the property, neither program being able to practice freely. This new construction should alleviate future conflicts.

"It hasn't been a great situation for the lacrosse teams. We added lacrosse, but we didn't have enough useable space for them to practice and play their games," Mr. Duarte said. "With this new space, we're going to take lacrosse off the baseball field and let baseball be able to have a complete practice again."

With the use of the new field still a year away, Mr. Duarte has reached out to neighbor Providence Country Day to secure use by the EPHS lacrosse teams of a secondary field on the latter's campus this coming spring. He said he is also leaning towards allowing lacrosse to use the space on the interior of the Townies' track at the high school for its games. That area, heavily used by football for practice in the fall, has been off limits to spring teams in the past to allow for regeneration time.

"Hopefully we can keep doing things like this. We're looking at replacing the track and we'd like to do something with the baseball field," Mr. Duarte added. "It's a matter of maintaining what we have and improving things as we go."

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