Lombardi: Borrowing money for new football field would gain residents’ support

Lombardi: Borrowing money for new football field would gain residents’ support

NORTH PROVIDENCE – If the town is unable to secure the grant funding needed to build a new state-of-the-art athletic field behind North Providence High School, Mayor Charles Lombardi says he believes residents would support borrowing the money to get the job done.

Lombardi, speaking to the Town Council on Jan. 2, said as long as officials can prove where the borrowed money is going, he suspects residents would vote to approve such a bond issue.

The mayor said he regrets that officials didn’t simply add $1 million or $2 million for a new field to the new school construction bond passed last election. Replacing the field is a “top priority,” he said, and the town is doing everything it can to secure outside funding.

“We’re talking to whoever we can to address this situation,” he said.

Everyone agrees that the town needs a new athletic field, said Lombardi, and the replacement of the dilapidated field remains an “important issue to many residents.”

The mayor said he has reached out to a number of people he believes “could help us financially,” including a town native who’s become a “pretty healthy hedge fund guy in New York.”

“I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I’m really looking to, how can I say, stick our hand in his pocket,” said the mayor, drawing laughs from the council. “Something needs to happen.”

The field behind the school on Mineral Spring Avenue, which is used for football, soccer and lacrosse, among other sports, is in such tough condition that it’s creating a serious safety concern for students and parents who use it, said Lorice Autiello-Daignault, an organizer of a fledgling effort to advocate for a new multi-purpose field complex at NPHS.

Autiello-Daignault told the council that “our field is literally torn to pieces,” and “totally unsafe.” Everyone with an interest in the field, from student-athletes to officials from the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, sees the NPHS field as the worst in the state, said Autiello-Daignault. She advocated for a new synthetic turf field to replace the existing grass field destroyed by “overuse and severe climate conditions.”

North Providence needs a new field that’s “safe and aesthetically appealing,” said Autiello-Daignault. The current field is an “accident waiting to happen,” she emphasized.

She noted that she’s a mother of a student-athlete at the school, but said her interest in securing a new field is about the future, as her daughter will graduate next year.

“We just want to make our town match our school system, which is doing so well,” she said. The issue “can no longer be pushed aside,” she said.

There are a number of field surface options that don’t involve putting down the controversial crumb rubber surface, said Autiello-Daignault, who presented the council with her research on various options.

Resident Ruth Bucci, a frequent commenter on the alleged health risks posed by crumb rubber surfaces, again urged town officials to go with a natural grass solution.

Because the existing field is used all year, it can’t restore itself, noted Autiello-Daignault, and the condition continues to deteriorate.

Town Councilor Manny Giusti, longtime coach with the North Providence Jets, agreed that the field is in terrible condition, noting what he said is a 6-foot elevation difference between one end of the field and the other. If someone lies down in the corner of the end zone nearest to the school, someone standing in the opposite end zone corner can’t see them, he said.

Lombardi agreed that the field has lost its ability to restore itself due to all the use it receives.

Bart Brunetti, a parent of a sophomore at NPHS, said he, too, is in favor of doing something about the “worst field in the state,” and doing it soon. His own NPHS student is a sophomore, so she’ll never use the new field either, he said, but replacing the “dangerous” facility is important for the whole town.

Brunetti also mentioned the lights that keep going out at the field, forcing the postponement of multiple games. If communities such as Scituate can find the resources for new fields, North Providence should also be able to get it done, he told officials.

Lombardi said officials are also still looking at multiple other target properties for new athletic fields, potential purchases that would help the town keep a new athletic field behind NPHS as a “premier football site.”

Comments

You expect a town of 30,000 plus residents to agree for the town to borrow money to pay for a football field that will benefit about 35-40 kids? Especially when the town keeps having a surplus every year, and that surplus isn't given back to the residents in the form of tax relief? Come on man!!

Overpaying to rent trucks to replace the junk at DPW to plow....privatizing the Senior Center.......and now he wants a field that is used a few months of the year! When will it stop !!!!!!

The comments above are baffling. I don't agree at all with how the mayor spends money (or doesn't) but come on! Have you seen that field. It is a disaster. It is used year round by numerous teams and literally hundreds of kids. Take shots at charles and his spending habits, but not at the expense of logic.

Hats off to the town council and the mayor for addressing this issue. The reality is that this will benefit literally THOUSANDS of kids from high school age to our littlest residents. The current field is used almost YEAR round, for multiple sports, for boys and girls of all ages. Feel free to ask any of the athletes past, present and future and they will tell you that there are few fields that are as bad as ours in the entire region, not just our state. In its current condition it is at the very least an eye sore, at its worst it is a danger to anyone who steps foot on it. I could not be more supportive of any other project that the town could take on. A new field would take what is already a great place to watch a game and make it a great place to PLAY a game.

35-40 kids? That's just the high school team. What about soccer? The NP Jets? The money that is spent on maintenance, paint, etc? Do your research about how the field will be used.

My comment above wasn't meant to read as, the town shouldn't have an upgraded field. It was supposed to emphasize the fact that, with the amount of money town residents are paying in taxes, and with the annual surpluses that we supposedly have every year that aren't coming back to the town residents, we should NOT be taking out loans to pay for a new field. Economics 101. If you can't afford it, you don't buy it. The mayor says we have a surplus. If this is that important to him, then pay cash for it.

We should secure a loan if necessary to replace the field. We also should include in that loan money to purchase land offsite to build another field and park for local sports, the town is literally out of land.