The Wellesley Field Fund has begun its campaign to raise $1.5M for getting lights, team rooms, and a modern sound system installed at the high school track and field. That amount of private fundraising would be designed to cover construction and material costs that have been on the rise from earlier estimates for the project closer to $1M.
A Natural Resources Commission vote over the summer in favor of allowing lights, after years of discussion and debate in town, has paved the way for fundraising to begin.
Some $1.3M was raised via roughly a thousand donors in 2015-2016 to pay for resurfacing the Wellesley High track and installing a larger artificial turf field. Familiar faces from that fundraising effort are back, and the campaign is led by Jerry Nigro, a Wellesley resident who is active in coaching youth sports and is the boys’ lacrosse rep for the town’s Playing Fields Task Force. Donations would be tax deductible, as the fund’s fiscal sponsor is local non-profit Community Investors.
Wellesley Field Fund organizers aim to hit their fundraising goal by Nov. 1 (or by Thanksgiving at the latest), as the town won’t permit construction to begin until funds are secured.
Specifically, the money would be used for:
● Team rooms: Locker rooms and bathrooms for home and away teams.
● Lighting: Aimed at providing safety for athletes and spectators during games and practices at dusk or night, and allowing for more people to attend events. The dark sky-compliant lights would be designed to limit their impact on the surrounding area.
● Sound system: Speakers mounted to direct sound to the immediate track & field area.
(Funding for a combo bathroom and concession stand facility would largely be covered by money appropriated at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.)
Wellesley School Committee member Linda Chow shared an update on the project at that town body’s Sept. 13 meeting shortly after the 23-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording. The School Committee in February of 2021 agreed to explore lighting and team rooms as a package.
“As a committee we had decided early on that because the town had already so generously committed to rebuilding two new elementary schools we did not feel that we wanted to go back to the town and ask for funding for this particular project. That was a very conscious decision we made to privately fundraise,” she said.
Chow emphasized that the committee itself cannot do the private fundraising and that’s where the Field Fund comes in. The Fund will provide regular updates to the public and School Committee.
Looking ahead, each of these projects will need to make their way through various town groups, including the Design Review Board, Wetlands Protection Committee (bathrooms had done this), and Zoning Board of Appeals. The Field Fund is hopeful most approvals can be secured by early winter. The fact that Phase I of the project included permitting for stormwater and utility connections, envisioning team rooms and bathrooms, that should smooth the process.
Once funded, the installation of the lights and sound system could be completed within 6 months, while the completion of team rooms would likely take 9-12 months, according to the Field Fund.