MVRHS track planners clear hurdle

Planning committee invites track builder back; grass and turf on the table.

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Construction planning for a new high school track trotted forward Tuesday morning when the facilities subcommittee of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) agreed to invite track construction specialist Gale Associates back to the Island next month to advise the subcommittee on planning the school’s new track.

The meeting, tentatively planned for Monday, April 23, will reconnect Gale and school and subcommittee members who are considering several aspects of the matter, including cost and whether the track infield should be grass or synthetic turf for best use and maintenance costs.

The subcommittee also agreed to develop a list of questions for the Gale visit, including the experience of other schools with grass and synthetic infields, for its meeting next week on Tuesday, April 10, at the West Tisbury School at 4 pm.

Gale, the premier builder of school tracks in the Northeast, and an approved vendor for the MVRHS project, did preliminary work on the project last year as the MVRHS school committee was considering proposals from two separate Island groups, MV@Play and the Field Fund, to underwrite the estimated $3 million track refurbishing.

At that time, Gale presented a rough layout and an estimate of $166,000 in engineering and infrastructure costs to make the track site build-ready. MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy told the subcommittee that “we have to know what’s in the middle before we decide on the outside. The layout plan has been approved by the coach [Joe Schroeder] and me. We know what we want, and Gale is an approved vendor.”

McCarthy did not support grass or turf in his comments, but noted he had knowledge that several area high schools (Notre Dame Academy, Bishop Feehan, and Nauset) installed grass infields, then switched to synthetic, although noting that Bourne High School uses a grass infield.

He said the schools converting to turf have reported that the benefits of turf are that surface also supports play from field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer teams, reducing wear on their grass fields and providing an opportunity for regular maintenance of the grass fields.

Use of grass or turf on playing fields has been a contentious issue over the past two years here, particularly during unsuccessful negotiations last summer between MVRHS and its school committee with the Field Fund, a potential underwriter of the project. The Field Fund is dedicated to using grass on all Island playing fields. MV@Play expressed no preference for either surface. During the Field Fund talks, the school committee had developed a policy calling for all-grass surfaces, which would need to be changed if synthetic turf is chosen.

When intimations of the past conflict were raised on Tuesday morning, member Amy Houghton, chair of the meeting, called a halt. ”Let’s be clear. We have no partnerships with MV@play or the Field Fund. Replaying the discussion has no value here. We need to decide what we want and go forward from there.

“Last night [at the full MVRHS school committee] we decided to pursue outside partnerships and to develop a plan for funding it ourselves if need be,” she said.

Member Kris O’Brien said she doesn’t have a preference. “I don’t favor either grass or turf, and I believe most of you feel the same way,” she said. “This is about reality, not ideology.”

The facilities subcommittee also asked building and grounds director Mike Taus to secure the roof of the former MVTV building with ice and water shields while the high school considers a plan for its long-term use.

Taus estimated the ice and water shields would protect the building for six to nine months. He said the building is structurally sound, with minor rot to some trim boards. Currently, the building serves soccer and lacrosse teams, and is the power source for the Touchdown Club shed, the maintenance shed, and the parking at the football field.