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.”