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.