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The Spinelli Field Ad-hoc Committee is taking important steps to ensure the Spinelli field remains safe for student athletes, usable for other groups and clubs, and the caliber of facility that draws teams, tournaments — and the economic boon they bring — to Bennington.

Tonight (Wednesday) the committee will hear from synthetic playing surface supplier FieldTurf and from the Clark Cos., a construction firm specializing in athletic facilities, who plan to lay out possible options for moving ahead with the project.

The committee is also working to hold the cost of any improvements under the $3.5 million initial price tag shot down by voters in November, and looking at various options for paying for the work. Everything is on the table at this point, including private fundraising, paying over time, and/or any other great ideas that come before the panel.

The Spinelli facility, built in 1967 and named for Bennington Catholic High School Principal Rev. Vincent Spinelli, has been showing its age.

Prior to the November vote, The Banner supported the $3.5 million bond for an overhaul of the surface of the field and running track, to fix drainage problems, as well as adding a multipurpose ticket and storage building with heating that bathrooms, and add a crow’s nest for the filming and broadcasting of games.

We continue to feel that Mount Anthony Union High School is a front door to our community. School facilities say a lot about a community; they tell folks whether a region is willing to settle for “good enough” or if it goes the extra mile and wisely invests in its future. You’d be hard-pressed to look at the condition of Spinelli field and the track and say, “Wow, this community never settles for second-best.”

We felt that our children deserve our very best. Fields that flood and are dotted with sinkholes and puddles are not safe. The students don’t ask for much from us; they were calling for the Spinelli improvements in chants from the bleachers at games, in letters to The Banner, and more.

In addition, we argued that having top-rated sports facilities up to par to host regional and state tournaments would boost the local economy by bringing visitors to our hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. It would also help this region attract a quality workforce, with parents who want the best schools and facilities for their children.

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But voters spoke. They seemed to say the price tag was too high. Perhaps some weren’t comfortable with a synthetic playing field rather than grass.

We also felt some voters — busy people juggling jobs and kids and bills and all the other day-to-day challenges — didn’t quite understand the need, the specifics of the proposal, or the modest impact of the cost on taxpayers. Supporters of the project worked hard to get the facts out before the vote, but the $3.5 million price tag turned out to be a conversation stopper.

Mostly,

Voters in the district now have another opportunity to be part of the discussion, as the Spinelli Field Ad-hoc Committee works to balance the concerns of taxpayers with the very real need to keep our athletes safe and our economy booming.

The Banner will continue to call for serious improvements to the Spinelli facility. We feel that is an imperative to our community.

We also invite readers to submit their thoughts, ideas and opinions on how the facility can be brought up to par, at what reasonable cost, and ways to offset the public cost burden if possible (send letters to news@benningtonbanner.com). Robust public input is vital to ensuring upgrades – any upgrades – happen.

For today, our message is to thank the Ad-hoc Committee for staying on this critical task. Your work is often thankless, yet so important to our region and our children. We will follow this discussion closely and with great interest, and we encourage the public to join us.


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