SOUTHINGTON — A combined $23.7 million in improvements to Southington High School facilities will be on the Nov. 8 ballot for approval by voters.
The two separate projects, a $17 million overhaul to sports facilities and a $6.7 million partial replacement of the school’s roof, are long overdue, according to school officials.
Many of the school’s sports facilities have not received a significant upgrade in 40 years, while the portion of the roof that would be replaced dates back to 1995.
School Superintendent Steve Madancy said both projects had unanimous support from the Town Council, Board of Education, and Board of Finance. Voters will ultimately decide if plans proceed since spending for both projects would be well above the threshold for referendum under the Town Charter.
The current proposal for the athletics facilities is a prospective three-year plan rolled out over the course of 2023-2026, with three main construction phases. In time, all the sports facilities will be completely renovated. The baseball fields, tennis courts, and the central stadium multi-sport turf field are of primary concern.
Much of the current infrastructure on the fields does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is unable to suit the needs of spectators and students.
The home bleachers on the main stadium need to be inspected yearly by a structural engineer to ensure they’re still able to maintain support, and almost entirely lack handrails for people to safely get up and down.
The track surrounding the main field has not been significantly redone since the 1980s, aside from spot repairs. The starting line had been worn all the way down to the concrete until being repaired recently, but the entire track still is in need of replacement.
“There hasn’t been a significant [change], other than a few things here or there done since the high school opened in ‘74,” Athletics Director Steve Risser said. “So I think there’s an understanding that we have to upgrade our facilities both for safety and for the experience that we have.”
Other areas like the baseball and soccer fields are also in poor condition, with dugouts that are inadequate to support the teams, light fixtures that are beginning to lean and are in constant need of replacement, and poor drainage.
“Our softball field, for example, there were times when it would rain and we couldn’t be on the field for three or four days because of the nature of how the field had sort of been worn over 40 years since that was started,” Risser said.
The $17 million would be put toward an overhaul of the entirety of the school’s athletic space. That includes new scoreboards, bleachers, resurfaced fields, new courts, along with improved lighting and drainage systems. There will also be the addition of an entirely new turf field that would allow the school to host multiple athletic events at the same time.
School district officials had planned to address the town’s three oldest elementary schools this year and send that plan to voters instead. But delays at the state level pushed the timeline for the elementary schools back. The high school projects, originally planned for 2023, were moved up to this year.Community benefit
Officials noted that the repairs and additions to the facilities would do more than benefit the high school students, but everyone in the community. Residents often come to walk the track recreationally and other organizations use the fields for activities and events.
“This complex in general is not just used for the high school,” said Peter Romano, director of operations for the Southington schools. “It really is the heartbeat of Southington.”
The hope from officials is that, with passage of the funding at referendum, Southington High School will be able to provide a robust community space for years to come which residents can take pride in.
“Athletics is a huge source of pride in the community,” said Madancy. “Between the youth leagues, the arts, and the athletics, I think this is a hub of activity for the youth and the students in the community.” Roof project
While a portion of the school’s roof was redone in 2019, there remains an 89,000-square-foot portion that still needs to be replaced. The roof was last replaced 27 years ago in 1995, which is seven years over the original 20-year warranty given for the roof.
With the roof being that old, it has begun to leak. Workers have been called periodically to perform the repairs, but school officials note that this is only a patchwork solution. The entire top of the structure remains in need of replacement.
“We’ve nursed it along and done a good job to get additional years out of it, but it’s time,” Romano said.
If the funding passes at referendum, repairs will be underway and completed through the summer of next year. The repair project will also help modernize the school’s infrastructure, with the addition of solar panels to improve the building’s energy efficiency.
School officials stress the importance of the referendum passing in November. If they’re unable to secure the funding they need, the condition of the current facilities is going to continue to degrade.
“The unfortunate thing is if for some reason the referendum doesn’t pass, we still have all these issues we have to address. They don’t go away,” Romano said.
“Those are the types of things that long term you can’t just ignore because you either have an accident or you just have a facility that you’re limited with its use,” Madancy added.
The school plans to make the full scope of the project available online. Plans can also be viewed by scanning the QR codes posted on-site at the high school grounds.