Push Is On To Fund Sprague Fields

Users of the Sprague Field complex are being asked to help pay for the improvements.

The year old, $3.7 million multi-sport field complex at Sprague School in Wellesley has been a huge success with thousands of kids taking advantage of the site each season, rain or shine.

The only problem is that they are still not paid for.

And each month the users of the fields, the town's soccer, lacrosse and baseball/softball organizations, owe close to $2,300 in interest, according to Andrew Mahoney, president of the Wellesley United Soccer Club.

That's why the push is on to get fundraising back on track.

This past weekend a sandwich board sign was placed at the fields urging soccer parents specifically to "Help Fund Our Fields."

When Town Meeting approved the project two years ago, it did so with the understanding that the users of the field would pay the majority of the cost, which came to $1,532,810. The Community Preservation Committee contributed $1.5 million and the town paid $700,000 for the improvements.

There is no question the fields have been a success.

"With these rainy springs we've been having, we just wouldn't be playing without the turf," said Mahoney.

That's not the only benefit. Before the improvements, the fields at Sprague, which had been used as a dumping ground during the early 1900s, were filled with shards of glass, nails and other remnants of the past. It was also uneven, making play potentially dangerous.

"The turf has a truer roll of the ball. ...It's an easier playing field for all sports," he said.

The user groups agreed to divide funding responsibility for the two new artificial turf fields, three refurbished grass fields, three baseball/softball diamonds and new field area designed for field hockey, with soccer footing 60 percent of the bill and baseball/softball and lacrosse splitting the additional 40 percent. Soccer is paying a higher percentage, according to Mahoney, because it uses the fields during both spring and fall.

With an aggressive initial fundraising push, $450,000 was raised in the spring of 2008, according to Mahoney.

"But our timing wasn't great," he said. With the country in the depths of recession by that fall, he said fundraising came to a virtual halt.

Another $130,000 has been raised since then, putting the total at $588,000, still nearly $1 million from what's needed.

There is good news, however.

Mahoney said the total cost of the project came in under budget. A refund of $61,000 will be sent to the users of the fields, he said, and $60,000 will be refunded to the Community Preservation Committee. The town, because it originally funded a smaller percentage of the project, will actually owe an additional $33,000.

Wellesley United Soccer, which charges players at most $135 per season, dedicates $30 of that to paying for debt service.

But even with that, donations are encouraged, Mahoney said.

"If every (soccer) family that uses the fields gave a check for $500, the fields would be paid for," Mahoney said.




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