Redding, Easton Voters Tackle Issue Of Barlow's Stadium Renovation

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Improvements for the stadium at Joel Barlow High School in Redding will go to referendum on Sept. 24.
Improvements for the stadium at Joel Barlow High School in Redding will go to referendum on Sept. 24. Photo Credit: Tom Renner

REDDING AND EASTON, Conn. – Many residents of Redding and Easton would agree that the sports stadium at Joel Barlow High School needs a facelift. But can a proposed renovation get the approval of a majority of voters?

Redding and Easton voters will go to the polls Sept. 24 to vote on a plan to make significant improvements to the stadium. The planned improvements would cost $3.272 million, shared between Redding (55 percent) and Easton (45 percent) residents. Financing would come through a 20-year bond that would cost taxpayers about $27 per year.

The group supporting the project, Barlow Excellence, believes now is the opportune time to tackle the stadium’s issues because of the historically low interest rates and the dire need for the improvements.

“I think it’s time to bring the athletic facilities up to par with the rest of the experience at Barlow,’’ said Kevin Jones, a Redding resident and spokesman for Barlow Excellence. “The rates for lending are historically low, and it’s $27 per year for a family. You pull into the parking lot of a diner and you’ll spend $27. For that cost right now, this is the time to do the project.”

The improvements would include new home and visitor bleachers with a capacity for 1,000 fans (about the same as the current stands); new field lighting with low-glare bulbs; a multi-purpose synthetic field service; refurbished areas for track and field events; a paved, landscaped and lit parking area; new fencing; and an eight-year full replacement warranty.

The Clark Cos., which has installed many athletic facilities at colleges and high schools in the Northeast, was the low bidder for the project. “We know, based on their history, that it will come in on time and on budget,’’ Jones said.

Barlow’s field needs significant improvements. In 2011, bleachers needed emergency structural bracing. There is no handicap access to the stands. The fencing is weak and uneven, and the playing surface is uneven and dangerous.

“Each season, there have been at least 35 game and practice cancellations,’’ Jones said. “What you can’t see is the cracked irrigation system. They’ve been watering it by hand. You have a field that is useless for the majority of the year.”

When weather renders the current playing surface unplayable, young players move to fields elsewhere in town. High school and youth teams in a range of sports would benefit from the improvements.

Residents of Easton and Redding have been down the referendum road before. In 2007, a $3 million project, “Falcon Pride,” which would have built two artificial turf fields at Barlow failed to gain enough town support. Redding also rejected a $500,000 project to put in an artificial turf field at the Redding Community Center in 2011.

“When you’re trying to compete for younger families look around us,’’ Jones said. “There are some elite facilities at Wilton, Ridgefield, Trumbull or Monroe. We haven’t kept up with the facility.”

Jones, a former football coach at Stamford High, has been through stadium renovations before when Stamford refurbished Boyle Stadium. He said Redding’s project is much less complex.

“This is the easiest project in the world,’’ he said. “We’re in a great position to do this. But it won’t happen unless the people vote.”

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Comments (7)

bathrooms?

The facility is not ADA compliant and it is not possible for many physically challenged people, especially those in wheelchairs, to enter the stands and watch the games. Paths are not paved for wheelchairs, lighting is inadequate and grandstand entrance and egress was not designed decades ago to accommodate compliance with standards which will permit everyone to enjoy sporting events. The Board does not consider helping people who are physically challenged as gold plating. We considerate it to be welcoming to every citizen.

Leon Karvelis

The facility is not fine and is in disrepair. Anyone who has attended games to support the kids of Redding and Easton would agreed. Our high school facility is subpar to any other towns and if we want to attract new members to our community we need to support the referendum. Please Vote YES you are not only supporting the kids of our town but also the community

Good point. What usually attracts me to a community is whether it meets the criterion of allowing people in wheelchairs to ascend the grandstand to watch games, rather than be confined to field level with the players and coaches.

Let's face it: the attitude of the school board bureaucrats is that, since they (and their relevant committees) have worked hard on some plan, for so long, the taxpayers should just shut up and write the checks. Otherwise these skinflints should vote "no" on the latest education-unrelated tinsel project, keep their three-plus million, and let the towns suffer the everlasting shame and disgrace of not being "ADA compliant".
Give us a break. Vote "NO".

The stadium renovation project is long overdue. The person writing above apparently has not been to the stadium in many years. The facility is in need of new stands, new fencing, lights that do not operate on a "wing and a prayer", adequate parking and a field that will permit reliable scheduling for a variety of sports eliminating the cost of sending student athletes by bus to other fields to play and practice. Furthermore, the improvements will provide ADA compliance so that those who are physically challenged can attend sports events. The stadium renovation is hardly "gold plating" of anything. It is a modest, sensible, needed renovation of a valuable school and community asset. The Board of Region 9 and its relevant committees worked hard for over a year to develop a plan that makes sense. Sending it to referendum was unanimously approved. I urge people of Redding and Easton to support the referendum on September 24th with a "Yes" vote.

Leon Karvelis, Redding
Region 9 Board member

Approving this will allow "those who are physically challenged [to] attend sports events". Does that mean that handicapped people cannot attend them now? Or is this just more smoke being blown around so that the homeowners of Easton and Redding, already groaning under an increasingly heavy tax burden, will herd themselves, bleating, to the polls to vote "yes"? Try "no" for a change.

This is gold plating of a perfectly fine facility and needs to be rejected. Beware when they start using analogies to a family going to dinner to minimize the cost of wild discretionary spending. This is a three and a quarter million dollar dump of the taxpayers money. Stop it now. Vote no.