While many in town support adding lights to the Hunnewell Fields stadium, they’ve needed a champion among elected Wellesley boards to move the effort forward. They may have found one in the School Committee, which next Tuesday (Feb. 23) has listed an agenda item for discussing and voting on Hunnewell Fields priorities.
This meeting comes in the wake of the following:
- An extensive discussion on the topic at a meeting in January of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), which has ownership of the Hunnewell Fields complex (stadium, tennis courts, baseball, softball, multipurpose fields) and is a steward for the property’s use and any changes to that use. The Wellesley Playing Fields Task Force Light Subcommittee has been urging the NRC for feedback on a study it produced at the Commission’s request.
- A lengthy discussion at the last School Committee meeting, which included NRC members as featured guests. The big point that came out of that meeting was that the NRC needed a board of elected officials to come to it with a plan for lights and stadium priorities, which it could then get behind if such a plan satisfied town interests, including those of stadium and field neighbors.
- More talk about the issue, featuring School Committee Chair Linda Chow, at the Feb. 12 Playing Fields Task Force meeting.
One thing that Wellesley Public Schools leadership has made clear is that its priorities for the stadium at Hunnewell Fields are getting bathrooms and team rooms in place, and then addressing lights. The bathrooms and team rooms had already been permitted and funded in 2018, but then when the bids came in it turned out the funding wasn’t nearly enough.
Chow said during the recent Playing Fields Task Force meeting that it’s important now for the School Committee to be discussing a priority plan and finding “a path forward.” This includes a revisiting of the scope of the bathroom and team rooms, which might be able to be done on a smaller scale in light of what the Department of Public Works has learned from its work on the aqueduct bathrooms at Hunnewell Fields, which are slated to be installed this spring or summer, and from observing similar efforts in Weston.
Getting the School Committee to talk about next steps at its Tuesday meeting would be a big move forward, Chow said. She’d envision this then being a joint School Committee-NRC project if the NRC were to approve a plan. Chow did warn, however, that she has some concerns about the capacity of the town entities to handle what would still be several projects when you factor in the bathrooms, team rooms, and lights.
Laurance Stuntz, chair of the Playing Fields Task Force, sounded optimistic that this could work, and offered whatever help is needed from the task force. “We’ve been talking about this for a long, long time. Let’s get to a decision point,” he said, echoing comments he referenced from the recent School Committee meeting.