Artificial turf project for Cony field approved, could be ready for football by fall

Alumni Field at Cony High School in Augusta on September 8th. A project to add artificial turf to the field has been approved by the planning committee, and officials hope the facility could be ready in time for the fall football season. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal File Buy this photo

AUGUSTA – The planning agency unanimously approved plans to install artificial turf on the main Cony High School sports field that officials expect could be ready for football by the fall.

The project required an extensive review of the development by the planning authority due to the size of the 4 hectare site to be excavated and modified. The board unanimously approved the project on Tuesday evening.

The work could start as early as June and the new artificial turf field could be ready as early as September or October. It might be in time for Cony High School football to hit the field this fall season, according to Leif Dahlin, the city’s community services director.

The project will also build a new multi-purpose grass field in a location adjacent to the lawn where former tennis courts have been removed, just off Pierce Drive on the Cony and Capital Area Technical Center campus.

Dahlin said the new field will be a boon not only to soccer players but also to most student-athletes whose time on outdoor fields is now limited as the natural fields are often too muddy to use.

Dahlin said replacing the lawn of today’s alumni field is something he and others have dreamed of for a decade. The field is slated to be renamed Fuller Field in honor of philanthropist Robert G. Fuller Jr., who donated $ 1.64 million to the project.

“It was a wish and a dream in 2010 after graduating from the new high school,” Dahlin told board members on Tuesday. “We have worked on this several times over the years, but one of the big hurdles has been the finances. And as you know, Mr. Robert Fuller came out and gave us an incredible gift to make this possible. And we’ll do it and get it right. For the city of Augusta, this will be an enormous enrichment, both quantitatively and qualitatively. “

Dahlin said the turf field will be used by all student athletes in the spring, so they can train outside much earlier than they can currently get off on Augusta’s lawns. He said coaches, student athletes and their families are particularly keen to exercise as hopefully things will return to normal once the coronavirus pandemic wears off.

The multi-purpose grass field allows track and field events such as javelin, gunfire and discus throwing to be moved from the inside of the track, increasing the safety of track and field competitors and spectators.

“If something goes wrong, these activities can pose a serious risk to other people attending track and field events,” said Matt Nazar, city development director. “So I would suggest that an area that has a nice edge next to the turf field increases the safety of track and field events.”

City Manager William Bridgeo recently said that when the city’s tender project received eight bids, with the winning, low bid of $ 1.62 million from a Georgian company, Sports Fields Inc., he said the company had a very high bid strong track record in installing turf fields, his specialty.

He noted that this is well below the $ 2.2 million the city has at its disposal. As a result, he said “wish list” items, including repainting the grandstands and upgrading the bathrooms and takeaway, could also be reintroduced into the project plans.

The other funding for the project has already been allocated and includes $ 400,000 from city accounts that the city council approved for the project in June 2019: $ 253,000 that was donated from a trust fund set up for philanthropist Elsie Viles Established in late Augusta, and $ 140,000 that was returned to the project from funds left over from the construction of a new Cony High School in 2006. In addition, around $ 280,000 was raised through Cony All Sports Boosters and others to fund the project.

When asked by CEO Alison Nichols where to move the tennis courts, Dahlin replied that they had been inoperable and unusable and unsafe for at least 10 years. He said the six existing tennis courts near the Buker Community Center were more than enough to meet the needs in the city.

According to Betsy Poulin, urban planner, the sports fields are considered educational use and are allowed on the site in accordance with the city’s zoning ordinance. She said the project shouldn’t have any additional impact on the site’s neighbors as it doesn’t change the lighting or parking on the property.

Dahlin said the maintenance of the new field will shift from the current mowing, fertilizing, sowing and watering of grass fields to “sweeping and vacuuming at regular intervals”. It is effectively a carpet. “

The turf field is also regularly sanitized, and once a year a company checks the seams of the turf and makes sure the mat underneath meets G-Force standards to help prevent concussions in athletes.

According to Dahlin, James Coffin of Augusta-based Coffin Engineering worked to develop the plans, design, engineering, and quotation specifications for the project that are free to the city.

Dahlin said recreation and sports are educational activities.

“Children learn while they are having a good time and they don’t even know it,” he said.

Board member Bob Corey praised Dahlin, who will retire later that month after roughly two decades in the city, for his work in bringing the project and numerous other recreational opportunities to Augusta.

“Leif, we will miss you,” Corey said. “Thanks for everything and all the hours and the time and the sweat and the tears that you put into this thing because the city needs what you did.”

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