On May 14, 2019, after a long debate at Longmeadow’s annual town meeting, residents voted to approve the reconfiguration of the Wolf Swamp Fields for the price of $1.5 million. According to Mrs. Bari Jarvis, Longmeadow’s Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, issues with Wolf Swamp Field have abounded in recent years. She says, “the fields were becoming unlevel and the parking lot needed an upgrade to be consistent with contemporary design.” Jarvis notes that this is the first project requiring significant funds at the fields since they were converted from a potato farm into an athletic facility in the mid-1980s.
At the May Town Meeting, residents raised concerns about the comprehensiveness of the proposal and whether it took into account the needs of all sports in Longmeadow. Mr. Nolan Brown, a 2018 graduate of LHS, was among the most vocal about these concerns at the town meeting. “With these fields gone, Little League will have only one field to have every practice, game and tournament on,” said Brown. “Without a Little League feeder program for the high school, Longmeadow baseball will continue to accelerate on its dying path in the town.” Jarvis notes that the outcome of these concerns was to “maintain the 90-foot diamond and one of the 60-foot diamonds.”
After the money was approved, the Park Board hosted a series of three public meetings with the design firm and general public to discuss the design, layout, parking, etc. Margaret Rakas, Chair of the Park Board, says that, “The Park Board’s role was to bring the community together so we had an intergenerational facility that many different ages of folks in the town could use.” Issues that were discussed at these open meetings mainly pertained to how baseball and other fields would be situated and how the parking lots would be designed for safety and convenience. Rakas notes that, “The feedback in terms of field arrangement means that there will be greater use of the fields and they will be more flexible.”
Flexibility of the fields was an important aspect of the renovations from the beginning. Allowing an array of different sports to be played on the fields was paramount to the concerns of the Park Board. Upon the conclusion of the meetings, Rakas says that, “We really came up with something that was a good idea. It was able to be implemented, it was practical, it addressed concerns, and it was within the budget.”
Jarvis notes that considerations that go into the cost of the project are, “irrigation piping, materials such as soil and seed, and labor for which the town has to pay prevailing wage rates. Mr. Paul Pasterczyk, Director of the Finance Department in Longmeadow, had the role of determining the method of financing this $1.5 million project. Given the size of the project, the finance department decided to finance the project through a bond issue. Factors that went into this decision included an evaluation of “whether we could afford it within our capital plan, or whether we needed to finance it over a longer period of time,” says Pasterczyk.
A bond issue is comparable to a mortgage; essentially, the town will borrow money from a financial institution, and we will pay back the institution over the life of the bond issue. Pasterczyk says that, “If the bond issue were taken out over 20 years, it is estimated that the impact on the average homeowner in town is about an average of about $16 over the life of the bond.”
Currently, the project is expected to be bid out in April. Once the town selects a company that meets all the criteria in the big specifications, the town will break ground on the project in May. It is not yet known how the development of COVID-19 will affect the timeline of the project. Regardless, it is clear that a new athletic facility that will meet the current demands of athletics in Longmeadow is on the horizon.