By Brad Petrishen MetroWest Daily News
SOUTHBOROUGH, MASS. —With funding uncertain for new turf at 9/11 Memorial Field, the Recreation Commission this week recommended closing the field by the end of 2014.
“There are (several) projects that are more likely to have legs than this one,” Commission Chairman Joseph Laning said Wednesday.
The Recreation Department in March reported that the turf at the field would need replacing in a year or two. At the time, town officials said they would get in touch with groups that pay to use the field for help raising the nearly $500,000 a replacement would cost.
Laning said the Commission tried all avenues, including grants, but wasn’t able to gain momentum for fundraising or get the sense that revenues from future field use charges would support taking out a loan.
Part of the challenge, he said, is that the project is on state-owned land, and the state would not permit advertising on the field. He said the town is also barred from lighting the field, which cuts down on use.
The field was opened in 2002 with a $200,000 state grant and work donated by local contractors. It was named 9/11 Memorial Field to commemorate the Massachusetts residents who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A monument at the field is inscribed with their names.
“This is disappointing, especially given what we thought it stood for,” former Recreation Facilities Committee Chairman Joe Kacevich said Wednesday. “Obviously, (some) people don’t feel the same way.”
Kacevich said he had hoped replacing the turf could have been feasible. He said his company, Shaw Sports Turf, offered to get the town a turf for about $200,000 and have it installed for free. Kacevich said he presented the plan to the Commission in the spring.
Kacevich said he has been disappointed in the way the field has been treated for the past few years. He said people on numerous occasions stole locks from the field’s gates.
“You’d drive by and see people playing on the field for free,” he said.
Kacevich said so many locks were stolen that the Recreation Commission ended up removing the gates altogether. He said town upkeep of the memorial was also lacking, leading one local couple to begin weeding the area and leaving flowers.
Recreation Department Director Doreen Ferguson said the town maintained the field regularly.
She said she thinks some of the disappearing locks were honest mistakes, but added that another motivation behind removing the gate was that kids used to jump over the fence to play anyway.
Ferguson agreed with Kacevich’s sentiment that respect for the field and what it stood for has waned in recent years.
“They forget,” she said, “They do forget, and it’s unfortunate.”