NEWBURYPORT — City leaders are pressing forward with their initiative to demolish the north stands at the World War Memorial Stadium at the high school, and are considering creating an area to be dedicated to veterans of U.S. wars.
“It’s early but we will talk about a memorial to honor veterans,” said Mary Anne Clancy, a former mayor who has been a key driver over the last decade in renovating the stadium.
Mayor Donna Holaday said, “It’s one thing that we can think about. This will take a lot of planning, and recognition of veterans is one thing that can be discussed.”
Last week Holaday asked the Community Preservation Committee to consider generating $1.5 million to be used as part of a project to demolish the north stands of the stadium, built in the late 1930s.
Holaday said the space can be used for the expansion and development of all-purpose fields for sports like soccer and lacrosse, as well as football.
Though the loss of baseball diamonds on the property of the Bresnahan Elementary School prompted a search for open land for ball fields, city officials say that a baseball diamond is not foreseen in the footprint of the north stands.
Land at Bradley Fuller Field on Low Street was being considered for baseball. But that option may have been ruled out because a baseball field would make it difficult to host events such as track and field, and soccer, according to city officials.
Some Newburyport residents are upset by the mayor’s plan to demolish the north bleachers.
Tom Flaherty, who graduated from the high school in the 1960s, said he is opposed to dismantling part of the stadium.
“I know there are not many natives left in Newburyport,” Flaherty said, “but that stadium was the best in the whole region. What a slap in the face to the individuals who worked hard to leave a beautiful stadium for all to enjoy.”
Neither Clancy nor Holaday reported significant pushback from residents on the demolition proposal.
Clancy, who served as mayor in 2004 and 2005, said she has been working closely with Holaday to make the best use of land at the high school.
Clancy said she is in accord with taking down the north stands, and improving fields for youngsters.
“I once was in favor of rebuilding the north stands but it is so expensive,” said Clancy, now vice president of communications for the Institution for Savings.
“The spectators don’t fill football stadiums like they did years ago, so we don’t really need both sides. At this point, developing quality fields for several sports is a good use.”
City officials say that open space where the bleachers now stand would provide for a multi-purpose field that could accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse.
One key element of the new plan is installing artificial turf onto the “multi-purpose” field.
The CPC can’t fund this item, but the Institution for Savings reportedly has pledged $500,000 to this cause, officials say.
CPC members, who are scheduled to begin reviewing applications for funding in coming weeks, have made no formal comment on the mayor’s request for funding.
The following are tentative figures for the “high school playing field project,” supplied by City Hall officials:
Project costs — North grandstand demolition, $640,000; infilled synthetic turf field, $850,000; sound system upgrade, $50,000; new scoreboard, $60,000; overhead and profit (17 percent), $272,000; construction contingency (6 percent), $112,320; design/bid,construction administration services (8 percent), $149,760; owner’s project manager $70,000, totaling $2,204,080.
Funding sources — Institution for Savings (pledge), turf, $500,000; RESTORE (existing donations), $10,750; city funds, free cash ($200,000); CPA (2014 anticipated request, $1.5 million), totaling $2,210,750.