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Working Together for a New Football Field

Tolland sports clubs are partnering up to install lights and artificial turf at the THS football field.

could become the new venue for sports teams in the region, due in large part to the hard work and organization of THS boys soccer coach Jim Leahy, who is pushing forward a plan to bring artificial turf and lights to the school's football field.

Currently, the high school field has natural turf and no lights. Leahy said that the field is easily torn up as different sports utilize it for games, and of course, night games can pose a problem for Tolland teams. 

But beyond improving the sports experience for Tolland youth, Leahy said that he wants the project to move forward so it can create a revenue stream for Tolland's sports, which are largely .

"I really think there's a demand for it," Leahy said. He explained that a number of different sports teams, including out-of-town football, soccer and lacrosse groups, will be able to rent out the field. 

Leahy has been plugging away at the project, working with a variety of groups for funding. 

The Tolland Soccer Club, Football Club, Lacrosse Club and Tolland Athletic Foundation will work together to repay the Town of Tolland $300,000 to purchase and install the lights on the field, Leahy said. The town was able to bond the money at a low interest rate with the understanding that the amount would be reimbursed.

The conduits for lights are already in place on the field, from an earlier plan to install lights. Leahy said that every effort will be made to purchase energy-saving and glare-reducing light technology, if the budget allows for it.

In addition, the town has applied for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant of up to $500,000 to pay for the installation of the turf. 

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Overall, Leahy said the project would cost between $750,000 and $1,000,000 to complete.

Superintendent William Guzman said that the school board has not yet given its final approval of the project. He added that Athletic Director Patrick Cox will be presenting safety information to the board at its Sept. 27 meeting, comparing natural turf to artificial turf.

The project calls for artificial turf because the product has increased in safety and is less expensive to maintain, especially for a multi-purpose field, according to Leahy.

Currently, Leahy said the athletic clubs are fundraising for a total of $35,000 to pay for engineering work that is necessary to prepare for bidding.

He said that if all of the funding comes together, the field should be ready for use the fall of 2013.

Steven Johnston August 31, 2012 at 03:37 PM
What a great idea. Spend millions of dollars on a sports field and then charge the kids to play on it. Next you can charge admission to the playscape at Birch Grove. Enough already. Tolland spent way too much on that high school already and obviously they used the 3 stooges to administer the planning. Forgot the lights in the fields, (Check) forgot the emergency generators (Check). Wasn't there something about taxes not going up when the project was approved?
Bob S August 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Once again the Tolland Mint is printing more money. A million dollars for a field. This is insane. We played on natural turf and never had any issues. I gues in 24 years, grass is longer the "in" thing. Forget the fake turf, it's a waste of money that Tolland doesn't have. Period!
A Tolland Resident August 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
This is another fine example of the Town of Tolland wasting tax dollars. Lets spend a MILLION dollars (which will end up being closer to 1.5M when it's all said and done) on something that only a small portion of the residents can actually use. Why not fix the roads instead? Why not may down some of the town's debt? Better yet, how about not wasting anymore of the TAXPAYER'S money!
B Smith August 31, 2012 at 05:12 PM
This is really something that should have been done when the school was built. How much money has been spent, and will continue to be spent on maintaining and re-sodding this field every few years? There's also the matter of the field being safe for the players to use. With the burnout spots in front of the soccer goals or around the lacrosse goals, the potential for injury is radically increased. The combination of the in town sports clubs contributing as well as minimizing the maintenance, this would be very affordable. The above article should have titled this a Multi-purpose Athletic Field, as this facility would have incredible versitility if it had artificial turf and lights, and would be a great draw to outside organizations.
Long time resident August 31, 2012 at 08:52 PM
So, when were we designated the "provider" for the region? Let some other community provide the artificial turf field. What's that? No other town is silly enough to try and pass this by the taxpayers and they don't have to since we will. After all, Mr. Leahy will lobby our town officials and they agree to anything if the word "revenue" is dangled in front of them. And then to say we should do this because there is a "demand" for it? Interesting, who are these parties to "demand" that we should be beholden to? To install expensive improvements on the basis it can be a revenue provider in the future is a gimmick. Even if efforts are made in the beginning to make it available to other groups, the energy and effort will wane once the newness is past and attention is directed to new projects. This is largely an attempt to make the project palatable to the public NOW. Also, some council hoping to create good will (get votes) will eventually "forgive" some portion of the $300,000 at some point. The question is: is this improvement worthy of us having regardless of whether any other town or group ever uses it? Is it an intelligent expenditure which we are prepared to fund? Any revenue we get is gravy and shouldn't be a driver in making this decision.
Long time resident August 31, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Tolland has long done building projects on the basis of appearing frugal by leaving things out. The unspoken agenda being, we'll get the basic improvement and then go for all the amenities later. It creates an endless drip of "urgent" need which the town usually bends to since the building is there and its too late to forego the project.
Bob S August 31, 2012 at 11:00 PM
The burnout spots in front of the goals will increase the potential for injury.....how??? I played goal keeper in soccer and never injured myself, nor did I ever become close to it. How about the 3 outfield positions in Little League, they get worn out by seasons end. Don't recall anyone getting injured from that, myself nor my teammates or anyone else in the town LL. What wrong with re-sodding? How about going to Star Hardware and buying grass seed? Another thing is you will get more injuries play on artificial turf over natural grass every time. And that is a fact. Turf toe, turf burns, getting a foot caught between the turf seams (ask football player Domenik Hixon), much hotter surface temps in the summer (one study showed natural grass was 70-90 °F cooler in the summer) and the artificial turf is also a breeding ground for bacteria. Natural grass is self cleaning. And lastly, the town cannot afford it. You want AstroTurf, move to anther town.
Jim G. September 01, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Maybe I'm missing something, but almost every comment so far seems to be talking about a different article than the one up top. The town (= taxpayers) isn't paying for any of these upgrades. $300k from bonds sponsored by the town, to be repaid. $500k from a state grant. Some $50-100k from private fundraising. I don't see any town taxpayer money in there. The purpose is to make the high school field better both for Tolland school sports AND for visiting teams to rent. There's nothing in here about town expense or being some sort of free host for the region - although bringing people here from other towns can only contribute to local revenue as well. And there's nothing about charging locals for using it - only out of town users and visiting events. Maybe read a little slower next time - it will save you the trouble of hauling out your tired, canned arguments against spending on anything except YOUR interests.
Long time resident September 01, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I beg you pardon, but the town (= taxpayers) are paying for this. When we bond a project it is paid back from the debt service portion of the general fund. Repayment from groups may be proposed, however, regardless of how well intended frequently doesn't result in full reimbursement. And even then, the reimbursement rate will take years while we are funding the repayment of the bond. I disagree,Jim G, the taxpayers of the town do have skin in this game and it should be fully disclosed regardless of how much it may put a damper on yours and others interests.
Peter J September 01, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Last time I looked we were also state taxpayers. To have the state (which is broke) pay $500,000 for this should be upsetting to all taxpayers. If this can be funded privately then I thik it is a good idea but do not think taxpayer dollars are warranted.
Jim G. September 01, 2012 at 08:59 PM
It's nowhere near "my interests" but I believe it's in the school's and town's best interest. I'm in the minority that can see past my own small selfish set of demands. Whatever costs the town ends up contributing by backing the bonds are small relative to the total of outside funding - and those state funds are already allocated in bulk, so claiming some for town improvements is only good sense. But of course that will make no sense to those who only see things in the black and white of "all spending is bad" with the corollary "unless it benefits me" left unstated. It's always things for which the complainer has no use that they see as useless waste... never considering that the things they are perfectly (and silently) happy seeing town/state money spent on are likely useless to some other portion of the population. We all contribute to common benefit... so if your benefits are worth paying for, then so are the benefits others make greater use of.
Long time resident September 01, 2012 at 09:18 PM
The "total of outside funding" is hypothetical at this point, the bonding of $300,000 is not. Regarding grant money, I think there are greater needs that benefit a wider group of people at present, so I don't think it is the best use of grant money in 2012 either. If the benefits of this project are so self evident other towns would be doing it too.
Jim G. September 01, 2012 at 09:38 PM
It's not always possible to obtain or guarantee every dollar for public projects; sometimes you have to move ahead on assurances. As for the state grant, what would you prefer it be spent on... within Tolland? Or are you content to let all Tolland taxpayer contributions to the state be spent elsewhere?
Long time resident September 01, 2012 at 10:04 PM
No, I'm a realist regarding grant money. Once its slated for grants, it will go to some town. Cetainly not back to the taxpayers. That said, however, I would be willing to see funds go to another town over us if it was to address a truly urgent need in that community. I also think if we were all taxed less and there was less money to create grant programs, we could fund more of our own community improvements with just our own revenue. Of course, no state politicians would be able to take credit for those projects, so that arrangement wouldn't suit them. Regarding other uses, how about road improvements. We are now starting to bond for those! A recurring expense! I would like to know what other needs town staff are aware of as I don't profess to know them all. Basically, the turf field seems a bit frivolous to me in our current economy.
q September 01, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Don't we already have lights at the football field at the old high school, now TMS? If they need a lit, turfed field, can't those groups just raise the money to turf that field? Or use the grant money to turf the THS field now, but hold off on the lights until enough money is raised in advance. There are also lit fields over at Crandall. Who really benefits from also lighting the THS field at this time? How many games do THS teams need to play at night? I ask seriously, not sarcastically. And if,as you say, they will only charge out-of-town groups to use this new "venue", how will they ever make enough to pay back the $300,000 plus interest, pay the increased electric bills, field maintenance, cleaning of the venue after these events, liability insurance AND "create a revenue stream for Tolland sports" as Leahy says is the goal. I'd like to see a cost/revenue/benefit analysis for this. I worry that the BOE (=not only taxpayers, but students) will end up having to add costs associated with this project to their strained budget. The article says that Leahy says the project will cost $750,000 -$1,000,000 to complete. Even with $300,000 borrowed by the town and a grant of "up to" $500,000, if the project comes in at the top end, who makes up the difference?Those groups are still just trying to come up with $35,000 for the engineering study. Creating a new night-time lighted "venue" that will be rented to out-of-town groups should require a public hearing.More info is needed.
Jim G. September 01, 2012 at 11:27 PM
All fine thoughts, but frankly, if everything came to a halt whenever the situation wasn't perfect, nothing would ever get done. The notion that everything should just stop until we fix our problems is, and always has been, counterproductive. You can't put everything on a shelf until some sunny day. The taxes have been paid, the grant is available - and not for any random use, but this specific one. I'm glad to see the BOE and town moving forward. Tomorrow will get here whether we build for it or not - and it will be a more pleasant tomorrow if we do.
q September 02, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Jim - what about this project will make for a more pleasant tomorrow? And is that what we should be teaching our children - borrow today, take on unknown financial obligations for something you want but don't need because a more pleasant tomorrow is what's important? When this was 1st brought up, I thought it was a pretty good idea - bring in some revenue to help fund athletics. I thought, however, that the money would be raised in advance by those groups - not borrowed by the taxpayers with the "understanding" someone, sometime would pay it back. And it most likely, won't be enough - where will the rest come from?. The TIS PTO set a great example when they saw a need for a new playground, raised the money needed, and then built a wonderful new place for the students. Can't we use that formula here? Does anyone really have any idea how much revenue will be generated and if it will be enough to cover all costs? If not, who will cover the costs? Will this really help the athletic budget or add more expenses(and more taxes or reduce teachers)? And what about the neighbors? What impact will this new night-time venue have on them? Will this give them a more pleasant tomorrow night? Taking time to make sure this is viable (or better yet, pre-paid) can still lead to pleasant tomorrows.
Tolland Resident September 03, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Why are the responses so negative? Why aren't people asking for more information (like the last post)? Why aren't people wondering why the THS field was re-done and shut down for over a year (due to safety issues and other teams refusing to play on it- I think)? Why aren't people asking if THS will be able to rent the field pout like other towns to generate revenue? Why not ask the Park and Rec dept, THS AD and the THS coaches what they think? Perhaps the Patch could do a follow-up article as there seems to be many speculations...
Long time resident September 03, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Why is every comment that suggests that something may not be a great idea labeled "negative"? Those comments may prove to be the most positive in terms of the best interest of the town as a whole. Consideration of not doing something is every bit as constructive as consideration of doing something. How about consideration of a private group funding the artificial turf field a la Star Hill and the town can then rent it for our uses and so can other communities? We may not get the income, but we will not be saddled with the expenses of bonding and maintenance and the risk of not being fully reimbursed and revenue falling short of expectations. If there are no investors for this private funding, perhaps its because it isn't that good an idea. Which then leads to the question as to why we as a town should do it.
Tolland Resident September 03, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I beleive there is more information required to form an opinion. Folks can then comment on the facts vs speculation - that's all.
Tolland Student September 27, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I dont think anyone here realizes that a turf field is not something radical. Almost every town that Tolland plays has either a lighted field or turf or both. Many organizations are also looking into funding this field which would be the 300,000 for their own personal use such as Tolland Youth Football and Soccer. Sports are the things that keep kids out of trouble so having state of the art facilities gives them more attraction to play and attraction to parents of all ages
q September 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Does that argument (everyone else is doing it) work with your parents when you want to do something they can't afford? If the outside organizations raise the $1 million for this project in advance (and the turf is determined to be absolutely safe) then go for it. But the BOE should not be spending any $$ on "state of the art facilities" until they are first providing state of the art education to every student in Tolland. I agree with you that sports are important, but do you really think that kids will decide not to play football for THS because we don't have a lighted, turfed field right now? Raise the money first, take it in stages, be sure this does not become a financial burden on the town (taxpayers) and, especially, the BOE.
Miss Mary Mack September 28, 2012 at 02:08 PM
It baffles me that there aren't enough books in the classrooms for each child in an "affluent" town that Money Magazine voted "one of the best places to live in Connecticut". THIS is a priority???
Miss Mary Mack September 28, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Also, if the town is renting out the field, what about liability issues? Who foots the bill on that? The taxpayers somehow, I am guessing.

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