Funding for a $135,000 proposal to build a field house in the Coginchaug Regional High School athletic complex is expected be a special question on this year’s budget referendum.
The proposal comes from The Benchwarmers, a group who raises money and support for the district’s athletics, which secured $35,000 in funding from its own organization and other athletic booster clubs.
“From what I have observed, Coginchaug has one of the nicest stadiums around as far as layout and location. Adding a field house to the facility would improve it exponentially,” said Kory Kevorkian, Coginchaug High School’s CAA director of athletics. “It would certainly strengthen the facility from both a practical and visual standpoint.”
The 4,000 square foot field house would primarily act as a storage facility, with the option to add restrooms in the future.
It will be built on the concrete slab in the front of the complex, which was added during the construction of the athletic complex, always with the intention of building a field house. The original plan, which cost upwards of $1 million, fell through due to lack of funding. However, the concrete base and utilities were installed and in working condition.
“The project that we’re proposing right now protects the investment that’s already there, gives us a shell building and allows us more time in another budget cycle to figure out how many bathrooms are needed,” said Nick Faiella, Benchwarmers member and president of the football club.
Faiella said the project has been revised significantly since then, and is focused on athletics’ most pressing need: storage.
Kevorkian said the school currently has a few separate locations where equipment is stored depending on the program. A small shed at the athletic complex houses the outdoor track, soccer and football equipment.
“There is a lot of equipment in a relatively small space,” Kevorkian said in an email. “All athletic programs if given the option would be in support of more storage.”
The project is a more simplified version of the proposal for a field house which failed in referendum two years ago. That question asked residents to finance $800,000 for the structure, and was defeated 969 to 527.
“We took the feedback of the town and we decided to propose again using the existing slab that’s there and try to protect the investment that’s already there,” Faiella said.
The facility would be open to Coginchaug Regional High School sports and clubs, for the football, soccer and track teams primarily. Renting the space to other users is not currently being considered.
“It really impacts a lot of people, when you take a step back and look at it,” Faiella said. Almost 300 high school students use the field and track year round, and that does not include graduation and the number of athletes visiting on opposing teams, according to Faiella.
The Benchwarmers submitted their proposal officially to the Board of Education around January.
“The board looked at that and said, it needs to go back to the public again, as a separate issue,” board Chairman Bob Moore said, referring to the plan to add it as a separate referendum question.
He said the board’s feelings are mixed, mainly due to the last proposal failing, but decided to push it forward. The board will need to vote to officially add the question to the referendum ballot.
Moore said the current proposal may be more feasible due to the significantly lower cost, and because there already seems to be a large group of people in support of it- specifically seen through the athletic clubs’ pledges.
The Benchwarmers have pledged $25,000 to be paid over the next five years. The Coginchaug Football Club, both the girls and boys soccer teams, and both the boys and girls outdoor track teams, the Durham/Middlefield Falcons and the baseball and softball teams have all pledged to help monetarily as well, according to Faiella.
“This is being driven by the community and their engagement and use of the fields,” Moore said. “The public is committing a fairly large effort to support it.”
During the next few months of 2019-20 budget preparation, the board of Education is expected to vote whether to add the question to its budget approval referendum, which will also have a separate question for capital spending.
If the proposal fails, the board would look for options to seal the concrete slab to protect from damage in outdoor weather, until a permanent solution is found.
Regional School District 13 covers Middlefield and Durham.