2018-08-02 / Front Page

Turf goes in at Waterhouse Field site

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


Construction is underway to implement artificial turf at Waterhouse Field, located on the corner of West and Prospect streets in Biddeford. The construction team will lay crumb rubber turf – ground up tires – which will allow for extended play and durability for all sports teams as it will not be damaged by play during rain. (Abigail Worthing photo) Construction is underway to implement artificial turf at Waterhouse Field, located on the corner of West and Prospect streets in Biddeford. The construction team will lay crumb rubber turf – ground up tires – which will allow for extended play and durability for all sports teams as it will not be damaged by play during rain. (Abigail Worthing photo) BIDDEFORD – Waterhouse Field has begun phase two of renovations, which includes the laying of artificial turf, a first for the 89-year-old field.

The second phase will cost approximately $950,000 and follows the renovations of phase one that included new bleachers, scoreboard, fencing and lights, part of the renovation plan that is estimated to cumulatively cost $2.5 million.

Waterhouse Field was established in 1929 and according to history compiled by Biddeford High School Athletic Director Dennis Walton, “The history and tradition of Waterhouse Field has stirred the emotions of thousands of people, not only in the community, but in the state of Maine.” The field is host to the Biddeford High School football team and the annual Maine Shriners Lobster Bowl game since 1991, until last year’s 2017 game, when the dilapidated bleachers at Waterhouse Field prevented the event from taking place there. The venue was changed to Thornton Academy, which hosted the event again on July 21.

On April 11, 2017, Weston and Sampson, an engineering company tasked with evaluating the safety of bleachers, presented a letter to Superintendent Jeremy Ray recommending closure of the bleachers until further notice. Faced with the prospect of closing the field for the upcoming season, the city council authorized the use of $1.17 million to begin repairs on Waterhouse Field and Brother Hebert Field at Biddeford High School. Officials authorized a refinance of the $34 million school renovation bond approved by voters in 2017 to pay for improvements to the high school. Biddeford High School leases the field for $1 a year from the Waterhouse Field Association and as Waterhouse Field is owned by a nonprofit, some city councilors opposed the use of the funds on nonmunicipal property when councilors voted 6-3 back in June 2017. Councilors Michael Swanton, Marc Lessard and Robert Quattrone opposed the expenditure.

The old bleachers were removed in July of last year, with seating for 6,000 removed in a day with the help of volunteers. The new bleachers seat 1,550 on the home side, and an additional 500 on the visitors side.

“To see all those bleachers come down with just the work of volunteers who came out to help, it was really something special. It’s a tribute to the type of people, and the community, of Biddeford,” said Biddeford High School Varsity Football Coach Brian Curit.

At an October 2016 school board meeting it was noted that home bleacher sets were purchased in 1995 from the Massachusetts Shriners, and the visitors side in 1985 from Catholic Memorial High School in Massachusetts.

Replacing the bleachers, combined with the remodel of the playing field, has since allowed for an expansion conducive with a competitive soccer field, as the former parameters made for a field slightly smaller than regulation.

Also presented in 2016 was a comparative study between installing new grass as opposed to the installation of turf. Where reseeding a grass field would require a year before the field would be functional, turf will allow the field to be playable as soon as it is completed.

“If you look out at Waterhouse right now, you’ll see they’re burning it up to try and get it finished,” Walton said. “We’re looking at it being completed in the third week of August, and we’ll be able to turn around and play as soon as it’s done.”

The turf chosen is crumb rubber, which is already implemented at a number of school and indoor facilities throughout the state, including Thornton Academy, Portland High School and Scarborough High School.

During the school department budget presentations for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the school board included the placement of turf; $118,000 was budgeted, part of a seven-year payment plan of an estimated $750,000 for the turf, along with $250,000 of expected donations. Budget documents cite $262,000 raised for the Waterhouse Field renovations through a fundraising campaign by Biddeford School Department that ran until July 30 where one could buy a small engraved paver for $100, a large paver for $500, a bleacher row for $1,000, joining the “wall of donors” for $5,000, or a scoreboard advertisement for $250.

Curit is confident Biddeford High School teams won’t need much time to adjust from playing on grass to turf.

“Turf is already the standard for most fields, so I don’t think they’ll feel much different,” he said.

For Walton and Curit, they are both in support of the equity the turf will provide across all sports. Where a rainy Friday night game on the grass at Waterhouse would tear up the field and cause other sporting events, including field hockey, to be cancelled, turf is not as fragile, and will not be damaged the same way.

“I’ve always felt a little guilty when other games get cancelled because of a rainy football game,” Curit said. “I think we have one of the best field hockey programs in the state and they deserve the same opportunity to play.”

“It provides excellent playability. We won’t have to worry about chewing up the fields for other sports,” Walton added. “It’s not just about football. This allows all teams the opportunity to play in a field that is important to the community.”

Artificial turf is traditionally a black crumb rubber base, usually made from recycled tires, with a green turf fiber overlay that simulates grass.

Walton plans to hold a rededication in the fall and said he wants to “really make an event out of the first game of the season.” Of plans mentioned were an official ribbon cutting and fireworks during half time.

“Football is huge in the community,” Curit said. “I’m proud to be the caretaker of the program.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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