Letter: Please Support Much-Needed Algonquin Athletic Complex Upgrades

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com. 

This letter is from Co-chairs of the Algonquin Athletic Complex Committee, Paul Desmond and David Roman.]

To the Editor:

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee voted unanimously (9-0, 1 absent) to appropriate $7,960,393 to renovate the athletic facilities at Algonquin Regional High School. The next step in this process is for Southborough Town Meeting to vote on whether to approve its $2,998,680 share of that amount, followed by Northborough in April.

The “Gonkplex” project includes the most significant upgrades to ARHS since the school itself was renovated in 2004. For the main Richard Walsh Field, the project includes replacement of the grass with synthetic turf, improved energy-efficient lighting, and new stadium seating. The field will be surrounded by a new 6-lane track. The current grass JV/practice field will be transformed into a multi-purpose turf field, with new lighting and (modest, portable) grandstands.

The existing nine tennis courts will be completely resurfaced into seven tennis courts, three pickleball courts, and an outdoor basketball court (which the current facility lacks). A multi-purpose amphitheater will be installed to host various concerts, theater productions and other community events, and to serve as an outdoor classroom.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance is a theme throughout the project. The new seating will include revised parking, new ramps, companion seats, and an elevator to the new ADA-compliant press box. Upgrades to the amenities building will make it ADA-compliant while adding significant restroom capacity.

This project is long overdue, as our current facilities are well past their life expectancy. The current grass fields were originally installed in the 1970s, the track and lighting date to 1994, and the tennis courts were installed in 2004. As might be expected, they are all showing their age and, in some cases, are unsafe. (Beth’s previous story on this project does a good job summarizing current conditions.)

Our track no longer meets MIAA standards for hosting meets, forcing all ARHS track events to be held at other schools. Fall and spring sports teams often can’t use the grass fields due to weather, with excessive puddling a common occurrence. Late-season snow storms like the one we just experienced are a particular problem that often force spring sports to practice indoors. The fields are also often unavailable for youth sports and other community uses because of the need to “rest” the grass fields to keep them playable.

The new track and turf fields will address all of these issues. The turf is plowable and state-of-the-art drainage will make the fields and track usable in short order after rain or snow.

As for the cost, this is the first capital project for which the Regional School Committee has requested funding since the 2004 building renovation. And the administration has done its due diligence in finding effective ways to fund the project, by issuing a 15-year bond that plays out as follows:

  • Fiscal 2024: No tax impact
  • Fiscal 2025-26: Bond anticipation notes begin, requiring interest-only payments – $28/average household for 2025 and $55/average household for 2026. (Like all remaining annual figures, that is based on the average 2023 Southborough home value of $803,549. Your mileage will vary.)
  • Fiscal 2027: Principal and interest begins for project – tax impact $87 per year.

The $60 million bond for the 2004 ARHS building renovation matures in 2027. That will create a year of overlap between the two projects (2027). For that year, the expected tax impact of both projects combined is $196. After that, taxpayers will pay only for the athletic project and its average $87 per year tab.

We hope you agree this is a worthwhile investment, one that will serve well not only our student athletes but the community at large for years to come. The current situation is simply untenable. As Superintendent Greg Martineau often says, we got our money’s worth from all of these facilities, and then some. It’s past time to move on.

We humbly request you plan to attend Town Meeting at 1 p.m. on March 25, 2023, at Trottier School and vote to support these much-needed upgrades. If approved by both towns, the new facility should be ready for the fall 2023 season.

For more information, visit www.gonkplex.org.

Thank you,

Paul Desmond, member, Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee and Southborough Co-chair, Algonquin Athletic Complex Committee
David Roman, Northborough Co-chair, Algonquin Athletic Complex Committee

[Editor’s Note: The presentation planned to be given at Annual Town Meeting was also provided as an attachment. To view that, click here.]

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