Town, public will consider 11-acre athletic field proposal

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jul. 18, 2013
Vacant lots on Nevers Road, across from Ayers Street, could be the home of a future athletic fields complex, covering 11 acres. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
Vacant lots on Nevers Road, across from Ayers Street, could be the home of a future athletic fields complex, covering 11 acres. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

A little over a year ago, the Town Council Athletic Field Sub-Committee unveiled a proposal to develop new athletic fields on vacant lots on Nevers Road, across from Ayers Road and north of Sand Hill/Nevers Park. The plan would utilize synthetic fields and cost roughly $3 million.

Discussion on the proposal was renewed at the Town Council's work session and regular meeting, held Monday, July 15. The Athletic Field Sub-Committee's proposal, which is not yet finalized, presented a new aspect of the plan: the addition of a Miracle Field, which would make sports more accessible for young athletes with physical handicaps. For example, the dirt ground of a traditional baseball field's baseline makes it difficult for children in wheelchairs to participate – the Miracle Field's smooth surface removes this barrier.

“It's called a Miracle Field for a reason,” said Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano, who leads the sub-committee. “It allows children to play in an athletic facility with no boundaries.” Bazzano said the Miracle Field would fit nicely within the 11-acre site, and would give the town a good name. “The only other Miracle Field in the area is in West Hartford,” he said.

Steve Callahan is the head of the South Windsor Challenger program, a division of Little League baseball for players with physical or mental disabilities. He provided more information on the Miracle Field and noted that West Hartford has received statewide recognition for its Boundless Playground and Miracle Field. “Any time you follow West Hartford, you're on the right track,” he said.

“This is a part of our community we're not particularly serving right now. This gives us an opportunity to serve them,” said Councilor Kevin McCann. “It's certainly worthwhile. Let's find a way to get this field built.”

Members of West Hartford families who have benefited from the field and South Windsor residents in favor of the proposal also spoke to the council, lending their support.

“Everybody wins. There aren't too many activities out there anywhere where everybody wins,” said Jack Hollick, founder of the South Windsor Challenger program. “The kids win because they not only play, they have a chance to have some success."

Not all were thrilled with the prospect. One resident, Michael Sullivan, turned his attention to how proponents intended to approve, and finance, the project. With this in mind, he voiced his suspicion that the meeting's agenda included talks with leasing firm TIP Capital.

“If it is a scheme of yours to use a leasing finance to build these athletic fields, as opposed to going to referendum and letting the public have a say, you should press these finance folks to see whether or not they have the experience or wherewithal,” said Sullivan.

The council's discussion with TIP Capital was not related to the fields. But Sullivan's words found resonance with some councilors, who wanted to make sure the public could have a say on both the fields and how they would be financed.

A public hearing on the athletic fields, including the Miracle Field, was scheduled for the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3. At that point, Bazzano will give a presentation with some cost estimates. “The intention of the committee is to bring forward a close-to-finalized plan with some pricing, and allow the public yet one more time to speak in a public hearing on the proposed project,” Bazzano said.

Councilor Keith Yagaloff said that while he believes the proposal would be a benefit to the Nevers Road Park area, he is concerned with how the project will be financed. He wanted to know if the September public hearing would be about whether or not the public approved of the fields project alone, and if how such a project would be financed would be a separate discussion.

Councilor Jan Snyder said that now is not the time to look at the financing, but simply to present the scope and details of the project. She said a discussion on financing could occur at a later time.

Councilor Saud Anwar said that Bazzano's presentation on the fields at the next regular meeting, right before the public hearing, “is a little late in the game. People need to come with information.”

He also disagreed with the suggestion that the project be discussed “piecemeal,” in which one meeting presents the project details and another focuses on financing. “You're going to confuse the public,” he said.

Bazzano said that the plan has been out there for a year now. “I believe the public is informed on this. If they're not, they're not watching the TV or reading the paper.”

The public hearing will be held Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Council Chambers.

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