New fields, track, bleachers and field house – Memorial Field designs include long list of upgrades

Chris Huntress, president of Huntress Sports, walks through new conceptual plans for the Memorial Field upgrades at a public hearing on Thursday.

Chris Huntress, president of Huntress Sports, walks through new conceptual plans for the Memorial Field upgrades at a public hearing on Thursday. Michaela Towfighi—Monitor staff

The new vision for Memorial Field includes an additional playing field, new fieldhouse, renovations to baseball and softball, expanded bleachers and more parking.

The new vision for Memorial Field includes an additional playing field, new fieldhouse, renovations to baseball and softball, expanded bleachers and more parking. Courtesy—

New plans for Memorial Field include upgrades to the track and an expanded field in the center.

New plans for Memorial Field include upgrades to the track and an expanded field in the center. Courtesy—

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By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 02-23-2024 11:20 AM

Like any former Concord High graduate, Dalton Mutz knows the limitations of Memorial Field. With poor drainage after rain, the facility has garnered the nickname “the swamp." 

Mutz, who ran track and graduated in 2018, decided to move back to Concord this spring. For future generations, he wants to see an investment made into the athletic facility, which was built in the 1970s.

“I still continue to go to Memorial Field because it reminds me of having a lot of fun back when I was growing up, being a part of a team with the camaraderie and just making new friendships and relationships,” he said Thursday night at a public hearing for a redesign of the area. “The upgrades that I see now meant enough for me to come tonight.”

New plans for Memorial Field include an array of upgrades – the track would be replaced and the field in the center expanded to accommodate sports beyond football. A second field would be added, the baseball and softball fields renovated, and a new field house building constructed with locker rooms and bathrooms. A synthetic turf field is one of the options that will be discussed as the project progresses.

These long-awaited designs were presented Thursday in the Concord High School Auditorium, by city staff and representatives from VBH, a civil engineering firm, and Huntress Sports, landscape architects, both hired to work on the project.

Drainage isn’t the only issue that plagues the existing fields. Old bleachers are out-of-date and unsafe, and at night, fields are cloaked in darkness with a lack of proper lighting. In the last ten years, the city has invested almost $800,000 for Band-Aid    improvements.

 Initial visions of a renovated Memorial Fiel d present a mo dern athletic complex – bringing Concord up to par and repositioning the city as a site to host regional and national events.

“The plans that we’ve developed today are really what’s possible,” said Chris Huntress, the president of Huntress Sports.

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In September, the city hosted a public hearing to better understand what the community wanted from the renovation. Parking, drainage, lighting, accessibility, bleachers, track replacement, additional field space, locker rooms and bathrooms, were among the wish list of requests that came from community members.

All of these elements are factored into new master plan designs – the first phase of a lengthy project, said David Gill, the Concord Parks and Recreation director.

“We have a long way to go before we get to construction,” said Gill. “That’s all a couple of years away before we begin, unfortunately.”

The presented master plan for Memorial Field would roll out the upgrades in two phases. The first phase would include the track, new bleachers for 750 people and a 5,000-square-foot field house with locker rooms and bathrooms. The existing facility includes bathrooms but no locker rooms.

Dozens of new parking spots would be added along with a new overflow lot. Infrastructure updates, like fixing a blocked culvert, will also begin to address drainage issues.

The second phase would introduce the second playing field, expand the grandstand to 2,000 seats, relocate the tennis and basketball courts, expand the baseball field and renovate the softball field.

This two-phase rollout is designed so initial field improvements, notably drainage to the area, can begin as soon as possible. The second phase would follow and build off of this initial work.

“It was important to us as we were starting to lay this out that we recognize that whatever investment you made early on would not have to be undone as you did a later phase,” said Huntress. “You can make these improvements, you can start the drainage improvements throughout these areas and then tie into them as we get into the later phases.”

Concord High School students today will not see improvements to Memorial Field before they graduate. But for Sophia Anderson, a senior who plays soccer and runs track, student input into these projects is still vital.

Throughout her time in high school, Anderson has watched as other teams begin their on-field practices weeks earlier. And when games roll around, it shows.

“We are always put at a disadvantage to those D-1 teams that can get on that field in the winter, early spring and start practicing way before us, when we are still inside,” she said. “A turf field is definitely necessary, at least one, but also a good grass field as well to give us that advantage that a lot of other good teams have.”

Whether or a field will be artificial turf will be one of many considerations that will be left to the community to decide, said Huntress.

But for Nicole Armaganian, the Concord varsity field hockey coach, a turf field should be a top priority to better include her team at Memorial Field.

Field hockey is currently held offsite, but with an artificial turf field, her team could practice and play there.

“Just don’t forget about the field hockey players in the fields, because right now we’re completely offsite,” she said. “I would love to see us brought on site to be played with other school sports.”

The two phases would break up the cost of the project. Estimates now price the first phase at $10 million, with the additions in the second phase around $20 million, according to Huntress.

A firm project cost will come further down the road. A final design plan and cost estimates are the next steps, said Gill. Both will come before the Concord City Council and Concord School Board.

When plans are brought in front of both boards, continued community support at the meetings will be necessary, said Barbara Higgins, a school board member and former cross-country coach.

She has heard about upgrades to Memorial Field, since she moved back to Concord in 1990. Now she would like to see the plans come to fruition.

“We live in a time of so much divisiveness. We disagree about everything. The one place we all have fun is the one in the field,” she said. “If we build a beautiful facility here, we can have amazing events, which will bring revenue to our city, which will bring people to our city. I think this needs to be a high-p project.”