Wellesley sports news update: synthetic turf fields project at Sprague Fields

The school year is over and the last yellow bus has rolled out of the Sprague School parking lot. Now it’s time for the heavy equipment to roll in for the Sprague Fields Turf Replacement project. Starting Tuesday, June 18  over a period of 8 – 10 weeks, the two synthetic fields that are part of the heavily used five-fields area will undergo a $1 million replacement and maintenance update. The synthetic fields, used for football, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse, are referred to as Sprague 2 and 3, and are located between Sprague Elementary School and Wellesley Middle School. Those two fields originally were constructed June – October 2008 and are the ones that will be replaced.

Sprague Field, Wellesley
This is the east corner of Field 2, looking toward Field 3.

The three grass fields will not undergo maintenance work, and there are no plans at this time to convert the grass fields in the Sprague complex to synthetic turf.

According to the Department of Public Works (DPW), the fields will remain closed and inaccessible during most of the summer months. The project will involve removal and replacement of the synthetic turf, reinstalling the Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) and sand infill, and painting of the field lines. The lead coordinator for the project is NET Sports Group. It is anticipated that the fields will reopen sometime in August, 2019.

Why replace the Sprague synthetic fields?

We stopped by the fields back in January and it was clear that in many areas the turf fibers were matted, and in some areas the thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) and sand infill was starting to become visible. There also was significant wear in high-impact areas. It seemed clear at that time that the fields were due for an upgrade. Given that the life expectancy of such fields is 8 – 10 years, the upcoming maintenance was not unexpected.

The town has opted to stick with using TPE, the same fill material as was used during the 2008 construction of the fields, citing positive user feedback and the potential to reclaim and reuse some of the material. Here are a couple of pics from January 2019:

Wellesley Sprague Field 2
Swellesley file photo: January 2019. Small grey plastic pellets and yellow threads had heaved up all over the Sprague synthetic fields. I picked up some of the material and set it on a picnic tabletop to get this picture.

Wellesley Sprague Field 2
Swellesley file photo: January 2019. In sections of Wellesley Sprague Field 2, determined weeds were poking through the synthetic material.

What happens when no one wants to play with you anymore

According to Dave Hickey, Town Engineer, “We can now confirm that our existing carpet (not the backer pad) will be 100% recycled and the Town will get a certification to that effect. This is apparently a growing component of the turf carpet manufacturing industry.”

Athletic Director John Brown said, “Since 2008 these have been the best fields around and we know the same will be true when they are completed in August. We are excited to start practicing and playing on the new surface. When we initially built the turf fields with the TPE infill they were the first fields done with this product in the United States. Our opponents and officials have all commented what a great surface we have. We look forward to the new turf and to be back playing on two brand new surfaces next fall.”

There will be some inconvenience associated with the project. Hickey said, “This work will shut down all access to Sprague 2 & 3, and the area immediately around it. The contractor will use the parking lot for vehicles and occasionally for material storage, so there will be some loss of parking. Playing on the other fields, such as baseball and tennis, can continue with hopefully little disruption. The contractor will install temporary fencing to keep the area safe during the work. To keep our fairly aggressive schedule this work has been allowed to have Saturday activity.”

The money, then and now

In 2008, the Wellesley Community Preservation Committee (CPC) ponied up $1.5 million of the total $4 million installation cost of the Sprague synthetic fields. This time around, CPC funds are not available because maintenance work is not eligible for such funding. Instead, the Turf Replacement Fund is kicking in $500,000 of the cost. The remaining $500,000 comes from Town Funds, as approved at the May 2019 Town Meeting. Exact cost of the contract with NET Sports for this project: $1,050,612.12. (We hear there was mighty haggling over that last twelve dollars and twelve cents, but in the end NET Sports prevailed.)

Once the $500,000 is transferred from the Turf Replacement Fund, the balance of that account will fall to about $20,000. Hickey said, “This fund will now start accumulating for the next turf replacement project, likely the current two-year old high school turf.” That turf likely has over five more years of use left in it.

The account gains deposits from a portion of the fees on activities, youth sports, rentals, and Recreation Department permitted events. In this way, those who use the fields pay to do so.

The contractors

The town says that Gale Engineering out of Weymouth, Massachusetts responded in December 2018 with the best proposal and was hired to serve as technical adviser. The Town did as much of the plan and project specification as it could and then teamed with Gale to bring current and specialized knowledge. Gale will continue to assist the Town during the shop drawing review and a key stages of the construction work, mostly with things such as materials testing.

NET Sports Group — who has installed fields at Bates College, Bentley University, Lawrence High School, Northeastern University, and more — will do the construction. Heimlich Construction will be a subcontractor to NET for portions of the demo and fine grading. NET and Heimlich are the same team that did the High School Track and Field project.

The Town’s representative for this engagement is David Hickey, P.E., Town Engineer, Department of Public Works, Engineering Division. Questions or comments regarding the project may be directed to him at (781) 235-7600, ext. 3310 or dhickey@wellesleyma.gov

There’s always another project to be done

Next up for a facelift: the Sprague complex tennis courts. The DPW has obtained the permits and completed the bidding documents for a tennis courts replacement project. Hickey said, “In fact the bids are due later this week. While there is no specific schedule yet, it is our hope that the tennis court project will start in early August and be complete by the end of October.”

More to come on that as information becomes available.


Sprague synthetic turf fields to get a facelift, our January 2019 story