Photo: The diet approved by the school committee for a new ice rink in Belmont
The Belmont School Board unanimously approved Wednesday, May 12 the final design plan for a new skating/hockey rink located near the current location adjacent to Harris Field.
The joint meeting with the Belmont Select Board failed to address a pair of vital questions that still need answers: how to find the $18 million to replace the dilapidated half-century-old rink, and how to resolve an appeal from constant clarion call from the city’s tennis community looking to squeeze five courts into an already jam-packed venue.
“We need to close this case and move the discussion forward. It’s not fair for anyone to keep dragging things out and providing any group with false expectations,” said Adam Dash, the board chairman who co-hosted the meeting with Amy Checkoway. of the school committee, whose committee controls the use of the land where the rink would reside.
Responding to a request from the city, Steven Stefton, director of sports and recreation practice at Perkins & Will’s Boston office, presented a trio of projects in which the ice rink, parking lot and three sports fields occupy the area. west of Harris Field. Quickly, the most attractive of the plans had the single-sheet ice rink adjacent to the commuter railroad tracks and Harris Field, about 90 parking spaces with three sports fields taking up the rest of the land.
The 45,900-square-foot, two-level facility would peak at approximately 35 feet tall. The rink schedule would be quite modest with locker rooms that would be available for hockey and teams playing at Harris Field. The site will also allow for a configuration of three sports fields with limited overlap. It would take 15 months to build – the shortest of the three projects – at a total cost of $20.3 million with a $2.25 million credit from the Middle and High School Construction Project.
“There are a myriad of opportunities with this design and we think we could really create a high performance facility in the future. And then, at the end of the day, it’s the most cost-effective solution that can be implemented easily,” Stefton said.
Checkoway said that while the committee has a preference for the design, it will be necessary “at some point to find a way to fund it.”
“This [meeting] is really about reserving a spot for a potential new rink at some point in the future,” Checkoway said.
But for many of the 100 residents at the virtual meeting, the topic at the top of their agenda was finding a way to place five tennis courts on the site. Belmont High once housed ten courthouses—located on the northeast side of the existing building—before construction of the new middle and high school began.
A 2017 decision by the Middle and High School Building Committee in consultation with Perkins & Will (the architects of the new school) eliminated the courts in favor of new land and parking on the site. In January 2020, the school committee repeated earlier action by promising to add land to the nearby Winn Brook playground.
Dash noted that the board and school select committee had devised a compromise in which an additional court would be built at Winn Brook to allow varsity tennis teams to have a “home” facility, but without changing rooms or restrooms. . The Community Reinvestment Committee will present a proposal to the town assembly in June to pay only one lot to the playground for a total of five.
Not feeling heard
But even with a partial solution at Winn Brook, “there are a lot of tennis players in town, tennis parents who feel disenfranchised,” said Select Board member Mark Paolillo.
Proponents of a return of the courts to the school site gravitated to two possible options, one of which would reduce the number of parking spaces from 90 to around 20 and locate the courts near Concord Avenue.
Mike Crowley, from the school board, said there was a need to tackle the climate crisis and adopt more sustainable approaches to transport: “I don’t know if I want to see these pupils going to school. school by car. So I look at this space, I see the potential for a tennis court.
Planning board chairman Stephen Pinkerton was later credited with saying that ‘it’s an aspiration’ to limit student driving, the reality is that if those drivers come and they can’t find parking at school, they will do it in the secondary streets.
Any attempt to reduce parking would require changing the agreement between the school district and the Planning Board on parking for the new school. As part of the site planning approval encompassing the entire project, an agreement was reached that the project would have 400 parking spaces with 90 of those spaces located west of Harris Field, a settlement that Pinkerton said he was hammered with many parties — residents of nearby neighborhoods, transportation groups — involving lengthy and sometimes contentious dialogue.
In an apparent compromise that would bring high school tennis teams back to campus, Select Board member Mark Paolillo raised the need for a junior varsity baseball diamond west of campus.
“Can we program around JV baseball so we can get the tennis courts on campus,” Paolillo said, noting the popularity of tennis and the removal of half of the courts citywide over the past decade. .
“It seems strange to me that there are junior varsity fields on campus and yet we cannot have varsity sports on campus and yet we cannot have varsity sports on campus,” resident Lou said. Miller.
City and school officials said removing the baseball isn’t so straightforward due to the lack of a properly sized baseball diamond in the city. Jon Marshall, deputy city administrator and director of recreation, said moving the JV team to another field “would have a ripple effect” on the high school and city sports teams, as it would require turning small diamonds into “90-foot pitches” – referring to the number of feet between bases on standard adult playing fields – which would affect the playing choices of regional and city baseball teams.
After the committee votes in favor of their preferred scheme, it looks like a formally installed working group will be created to come up with answers on funding, parking and land use will be the outcome of the meeting.