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Region 10 athletic facilities project headed to a vote

POSTED January 09, 2014
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

Region 10 athletic facilities project headed to a vote

Tuesday will be a big day for the future of the athletic programs at Lewis Mills High School and the rest of Region 10 as voters from Harwinton and Burlington head to the polls to decide the fate of  $2.9 million athletic facilities project.

The vote will be held on Jan. 14 at the Harwinton and Burlington Town Halls from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

The highlight of the proposal is a lighted turf field that will be located inside a new track. The project will also include new tennis courts, a crew boat storage facility, bleachers and a scoreboard.

The project comes at a time when many surrounding town have added new athletic facilities (Canton, Granby among others) and with the tennis courts and track at the end of the line. The existing facilities were constructed in 1995 and have exceeded their projected life expectancy.

The field currently inside of the track is a grass field that requires limited use to preserve playable conditions, something that would not be a problem with a new turf field. The lighted field would also extend the amount of hours the field could be used and the renovation project would also result in additional practice space.

With sports participation booming in the Region, the project comes at a good time. Region 10 Superintendent Alan Beitman said at a meeting about the project that around 65 percent of high school students participate in at least one sport during the year. That number has been and will continue to grow with strong youth programs in both Harwinton and Burlington.

The project would also address something that is sorely lacking at Lewis Mills, a true home field. The Mills varsity football team just completed its fourth season and played its first ever home game on Thanksgiving morning against Nonnewaug. The Spartans have played their "home" games at Muzzy Field in Bristol the past four seasons.

The boys and girls soccer teams, two of the most successful teams Mills has, play their home games at Nassahegan in Burlington. Another off campus site, albeit one with a nice grass field. The project would benefit the field hockey team as well as they play home games on campus but can't host a state tournament game there because the current field is not regulation size.

"The field for us would be great," Mills boys soccer coach Ben Kulas said. "With the style we teach and expect, passing and using the entire field, turf would make us that much better. Plus the state semis and finals are played on turf and our goal the next couple of seasons is to get there. With the new field we would be that much more prepared for those games."

Kulas is not alone among supporting the plan among Mills coaches and there is a Youth Sports and Activity Committee that has formed to support the plan and get the word out. The YSAC held a pair of informational meetings, one in each town, to get information out to the public about the plan and highlight the benefits.

Among the benefits touted by the YSAC was more field availability for high school and recreational teams and programs, on site facilities that would eliminate busing teams (especially football and lacrosse) to other facilities for practice and "home" games and better player safety.

"There is no doubt a turf field is safer for the athletes," Kulas said. "With the material it is made of now, there is less strain and pounding on the knees and muscles for sure. I just hope people come out and support it and it passes. It will be great for all the kids in Region 10, especially the ones coming up from the elementary schools."

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