Plans advance for Dartmouth’s Memorial Stadium upgrade

9 August 2018

A group of town officials tasked with developing an improvement plan for deteriorating Memorial Stadium has narrowed its options for upgrades and will next discuss potential phasing for the rehabilitation project.

The Dartmouth Memorial Stadium Turf Field Committee, which is scheduled to meet again Thursday, Aug. 9, also plans to work out funding and public outreach strategies, Dartmouth Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations James Kiely told the School Committee Monday.

“All of this is relatively time-sensitive,” Kiely said, noting that the group hopes to put together a related article in time for fall town meeting in October.

Repairs at the Slocum Road stadium, on the town’s radar for years, became a priority several months ago when town meeting approved what School Committee member Shannon Jenkins has called a $400,000 “down payment” for the project, following approval at last fall’s town meeting for a $50,000 study. Preliminary estimates suggested at least $1.4 million would be needed to fund necessary repairs and upgrades, Kiely said earlier this year.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Chris Oliver, the School Committee’s representative on the stadium committee. “This is the most progress we’ve seen in quite a while.”

The multi-phase project is expected to include a new playing filed, new lighting, improved seating, and rehabbed restrooms and concession stands at the school department-run property to the left of Town Hall.

“This really isn’t just a school department project, this is a town-wide project,” Oliver said, noting that all town children would benefit from the upgrades. “Make no mistake about it.”

Jenkins said she had “every trust” in the committee, but expressed a desire to see the committee’s decisions put before the public for discussion. She asked that members prepare a thorough presentation for the next School Committee meeting.

“I want the public to get on board with this, so the more open we are informing the public how we’re making decisions, the better,” Jenkins said.

School Committee Chairman John Nunes echoed Jenkins’ concerns, noting a clear public explanation of the project would be vital to combating easily spread rumors.

Nunes suggested a “placeholder” fall town meeting article, with specific language to be worked out later, would be a smart suggestion to put before the Select Board sooner rather than later in order to secure a spot on the warrant. Oliver said he hopes the article, in its final form, would be jointly sponsored by the School Committee and other town bodies.

Anyone who has visited the facility in recent years knows “it is deteriorating” to the point where the stadium is “a poor reflection on the town” in the eyes of visitors, Kiely said at town meeting earlier this year.