Editorial: A win-win for fields in Barrington

Posted 4/18/24

It was both exciting and frustrating to hear the Barrington school administration announce that it needs and wants an artificial turf field at Barrington High School — exciting because some …

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Editorial: A win-win for fields in Barrington


It was both exciting and frustrating to hear the Barrington school administration announce that it needs and wants an artificial turf field at Barrington High School — exciting because some have been urging this for at least a decade, frustrating because it took so damn long.

At any point in the past 10 years — while nearly every other high school in the state installed artificial turf fields; while high school athletes, players, coaches and referees openly mocked the hometown facilities; while youth volunteers, recreation leaders and parents advocated for better fields; while the district secured millions upon millions in increased funding for everything but sports and recreation — the school administration could have admitted, “yes, we need an artificial turf field.”

Instead, they waited until the 11th hour, after the Barrington Town Council, led principally by Councilor Rob Humm, dragged this issue across one roadblock after another, to finally suggest that the sports fields used by the best athletes in town are not up to the task.

It’s good to see the administration advocating for better fields at Barrington High School. Unfortunately, their position comes days after the school committee voted unanimously to support a town plan to install artificial turf fields at Barrington Middle School, and now things seem confusing.

There will be a $5 million bond question on May’s Financial Town Meeting docket, with the bulk of the money to be spent installing new artificial turf fields at the middle school. The council pushed that issue forward. The school committee supported it. Now comes this 11th-hour high school conversation to muck things up.

However, everyone involved should resist the urge to lump all these issues together. Humm and the council endorsed the middle school plan as a way to solve the chronic field problems for Barrington’s youth sports leagues. This middle school plan is a youth and town-focused initiative. Period.

The high school’s needs are very real — perhaps more severe and more significant than the youth needs — but they are also 100 percent a high school issue. If Victory Field is converted to artificial turf, it would be used almost exclusively by high school athletes. Thus, the school department should pursue this on its own, without undermining the town’s initiative.

Fortunately, the school district has the means to do this. It would be quite easy to fit field and track improvements under the umbrella of the district’s $250 million school improvement bond. No, they cannot directly use state funds to build new sports facilities — but they CAN rebuild facilities that are damaged or displaced by construction.

Examples border Barrington in both directions. East Providence tore down its old school, used field spaces for a new school, and then rebuilt a new sports facility that has gotten rave reviews. The Bristol Warren school district is planning the same — to disrupt its entire campus with new construction, and then rebuild artificial turf fields when the new building is complete.

It would not be difficult for the Barrington school district to undertake renovations and additions that disrupt its decrepit Victory Field complex, with its horrible playing surface and crumbling track, and then rebuild something better in its place. It would be a win-win for town and schools.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.