BENNINGTON — As the Spinelli Field Ad-Hoc Committee continues to consider potential upgrades to the aging Mount Anthony Union High School sports complex, the group revealed answers from its public survey on Thursday.
The survey, which opened Feb. 3 and closed March 10, asked participants their views on whether the facilities need an upgrade, if synthetic turf should be used for the playing field, and concerns ranging from the financial impact of an upgrade to the safety of those using the facilities.
The public poll, which generated 499 responses, was the latest step the ad hoc committee has taken since the $3.5 million proposed bond to fund a synthetic turf playing field, upgrade the running track surrounding the field and renovate a multi-use building near the field was rejected in a November 2021 special election.
According to the survey, most agreed that Spinelli Field is in need of repairs and upgrade, with 83.6 percent of respondents stating they either strongly agree or agree with that statement. A total of 10.6 percent of respondents disagreed.
Whether any potential upgrade of Spinelli Field should be synthetic turf was a divisive topic, with more than a quarter of respondents (26.1 percent) stating turf is not “a needed project.” On the other hand, 64.2 percent answered that it is needed.
Regarding synthetic turf, 23.1 percent answered they were at least somewhat concerned with a playing surface made of those materials, compared to 54.9 percent of respondents who were unconcerned with that possibility.
Another major talking point surrounding the installation of a synthetic turf field has been the safety of the athletes on the playing surface. A similar number (24 percent) expressed concerns about the rate of injuries on synthetic fields. Nearly double that figure, 47 percent, were unconcerned with that possibility.
“I’ll say it now until this project is done with, for the high school level, there is no safer playing surface than a consistent, level turf field,” Committee Chairman Chad Gordon said during Thursday’s meeting.
Zemianek Track garnered slightly less support in the public poll, with 77 percent answering that it is in need of repair and upgrade, and 11.2 percent opposing that statement.
More specifically, 71.6 percent believe a resurfaced track is a needed project for the MAU community, compared to 13.6 percent who answered it is not needed.
In terms of overall accessibility, 73.6 percent of respondents said the sports complex is in need of upgrades to make the facility more accessible for people with disabilities.
“I was kind of surprised by the results that this wasn’t higher,” Gordon said.
Lighting upgrades drew a 69.6 percent approval rate, while 16.1 percent answered those changes were not needed.
It was nearly an even split when looking at concerns regarding the school budget: 38.2 percent of respondents were unconcerned with the project’s impact on the school budget, compared to 37.2 percent of respondents who were concerned. Nearly 25 percent were neutral on the topic.
The poll also offered a space where participants could express what else they’d like to see Spinelli used for. Relay for Life received the most support, with 372 votes, followed by the Special Olympics (366).
The committee plans to hold a “town hall” style meeting inside the MAUHS auditorium with a tentative date scheduled for May 10. The public is encouraged to attend.