With Salve Regina University planning to replace the turf field at the Gaudet Athletic Complex this summer, the town ponders doing additional work to the Turner Road facility
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GAUDET ATHLETIC COMPLEX UPGRADES CONSIDERED
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (APRIL 23, 2021) – The Gaudet Athletic Complex looks like it’s in line for upgrades.
Recently, Superintendent of Schools Rosemarie K. Kraeger approached the Town Council, outlining a plan where Salve Regina University will replace the artificial turf field at the Turner Road facility this summer. Part of an ongoing partnership between the School Department and the Newport university, Kraeger said Salve Regina would pick up the entire cost of the field placement project, likely in the $1 million plus range.
Piggybacking on that project, Kraeger said Middletown schools were looking to replace the rubberized track surrounding the athletic field, work she said was overdue. Given the need to resurface the tennis courts and talk of new pickleball courts there, council President Paul M. Rodrigues said he’d like to look at whether it makes sense to see if bundling all the projects together could save money and create efficiencies.
No decisions were made about the item during a meeting earlier this week. The council is expected to revisit the issue during its next regularly scheduled session on May 3.
“It would really complete the sports complex at Gaudet School,” Kraeger said. “We’ve all watched the grass grow at the new multipurpose fields next door, we had the baseball upgrades, the new turf field and hopefully a new track. This facility is used not only for the schools, but it is really used a great deal by our public. It’s all about wellness and the community.”
Over the past decade plus, the Gaudet Athletic Complex has evolved into one of the region’s premier public outdoor sports facilities, with multiple uses in one location. In addition to the field turf field, track and plenty of parking, the complex has a number of practice fields, a full baseball field, basketball and tennis courts. New multipurpose fields at the former Starlight Drive-in property are expected to open this fall.
Unlike grass fields that are prone to damage and flooding, the all-weather field allows play throughout the year without concern about the quality of the playing surface. It was installed in 2009 by Salve Regina by the same company used by the New England Patriots football team.
Kraeger said the work on the new field turf project would likely start later in June after the Middletown High School graduation was held there.
She said the track was last redone in 2009 as well to save money and minimize disruptions. The useful life of a resurfaced track was about 10 years, she said. The original track was built in the early 1980s and has been resurfaced multiple times.
The cost to redo the track was estimated about $612,000. Kraeger said the School Department planned on kicking in about $90,000 in revenues from renting space for cellular phone providers at the Gaudet property.
The hope, she said, was the town would support the remainder of the price tag. Finance Director Marc Tanguay said the town has permission from bond counsel to use money from a 2006 open space and recreation bond to pay for the track, should local leaders opt to go that route. About $775,000 remains unused on that bond.
“We keep those gates open,” Kraeger said of the Gaudet Athletic Complex. “It’s very different from some other areas, where you have a turf field and a track and it’s gated and really only open to certain organizations. Here, ours is open to everyone.”
The council President Rodrigues said he’d like the town to at least investigate whether combining the track, tennis courts and pickleball courts worked.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s not going away and it’s only going to get more expensive…” Rodrigues said. “I want to make sure we have solid funding sources and we have everything in place before we move forward with a vote of the council.”
“That track is in constant use and whatever we have to do to make it more efficient, if we throw in the tennis courts at the same time, pickleball, if the numbers work out, I am for,” council Vice President Thomas P. Welch III added.
“If we could add the extra recreational pieces, that would be wonderful for our community, but we understand there is a bottom line here,” Kraeger replied.
During his first meeting, new Councilman Christopher Logan said he’d like to see the town do more planning and budgeting with the future in mind.
“We know what the useful life (of the track) is and we should start thinking about that future cost to the budget and start to factor that in,” Logan said. “Make it long term. Stop thinking about this summer and start thinking about 10 summers from now.”