Design firm, AD collaborate to fix ‘torched’ fields

Frustrated after years of managing a sports program that practices and competes on poorly maintained athletic fields that have become dangerous, Athletic Director Rich Ferro is thrilled that a plan is in place to change all of that.

Mr. Ferro has been wanting to fix the fields ever since he was hired in 2011. At the moment, the high school works with the Amherst Department of Public Works to maintain them.

“They try to the best of their ability,” said Mr. Ferro, “but the resources aren’t there.”

The DPW maintains all the commons and recreation centers in the town of Amherst. However, between the town and the high school, the DPW’s resources are spread very thin.

In response to this, recently Mr. Ferro and members of the town and LSSE created the Amherst Center Recreation Working Group who, over the past year, have evaluated all of the Amherst recreation centers, primarily the high school’s athletic fields.

This winter, the Amherst Center Recreation Working Group handed over all their data to Weston and Sampson, a recreation design firm.

Weston and Sampson will host multiple forms this spring displaying different prototype designs for the high school’s future athletic complex.

All plans include first creating turf fields, which allow for better maintenance of grass fields.

A number of factors came together to enable this plan. They included complaints from referees and students, athlete injuries, and the negative effects of playing on poor fields.

Referees officiating games have told the school they need to fix the fields or else they won’t be able to host any games.

Students have also voiced their opinions, displaying their frustration with the current condition of the fields.

“I think they’re horrible, dangerous to play on, and not a pretty sight,” said junior soccer player Ammar Abdel-Maksoud, to describe the high school’s athletic fields.

Injuries are also a concern. The bumps on the fields cause an uneven surface which can lead to poorly-timed tackles or athletes rolling their ankles.

The fields also cause changes in playing style. The lopsided pitch and many bumps can cause a ball to bounce unexpectedly.

“An unlucky bounce could lead to a goal [by the other team],” said Maksoud.

Mr. Ferro has also expressed complaints. “Within a couple of years we will not be able to use the track,” he said.

The fields and track are deteriorating at such a fast rate it is hard to make any repairs. Without changes, the high school might not be able to host future athletic events there.

The Amherst Center Recreation Working Group, with help from Weston and Sampson, will find different ways raise funds for the new fields. Board members in the Amherst Center Recreation Working Group are contacting different organizations in Amherst, such as the PGO and the Town Council.

A new athletic complex will help not only the school’s athletics but also the town of Amherst. The high school already hosts multiple sporting events, including the Amherst Ultimate invitational. Some years, this event “absolutely torched the fields,” said Mr. Ferro.

New turf fields will allow more sporting events such as Western Mass. finals, drawing more attention to the town.

Sporting events like these are good for the town as they bring an influx of attention and people bringing more money to the town. Potential students may also be drawn to the high school due to the new athletic facilities, which could increase enrollment.