Applejack Stadium continues adding improvements
MANCHESTER — Last summer after playing a preseason game at Applejack Stadium as part of the Manchester Soccer Series, University of Massachusetts women's soccer coach Jason Dowiak remarked to Town Manager John O'Keefe just how nice the grass field was.
"He already knew that Manchester was going to be the best grass field they play on and they have a grass field [at UMass]," O'Keefe said.
It's fair to say the stadium housed in the back of the Dana Thompson Recreation Park is one of the best around and the town continues to put in work to make sure it stays that way.
After buying a new mower last year, which allowed them to lower the grass of the field to about an inch, they continue to make improvements.
The biggest addition to the Applejack experience is a streaming service, which will stream games through the stadium's website, applejackstadium.com.
They are using a service called Pixellot, whose technology streamlines video production with an unmanned multi-camera system on a fixed rig, about 35 feet in the air.
The camera covers the entire field and automatically follows the ball and zooms in on play.
The system, which cost $5,500, can track the flow of play and identify highlights without human intervention.
It also allows for insertion of advertisements, which is something Manchester can take advantage of to promote its town.
"We'll be to show a Chamber of Commerce clip before the games to show off the town," O'Keefe said. "A lot of the people watching the games are going to be from out-of-town, out-of-state or out-of-country, even."
The system has the ability to link up with the scoreboard and allows for graphics, such as presentation of players positions before a game.
If there is a football game being streamed, the system has the technology to insert an ad automatically if there is an injury or anything along those lines.
The first game to be streamed is the opener of the Manchester Soccer Series on Saturday, a preseason scrimmage between the University of Vermont women's soccer team and Boston College.
"The system is sophisticated enough where you just plug in the dates and times of the games and the system automatically come on itself," O'Keefe said.
A few local coaches will do commentary for the Soccer Series games.
Geoffrey Chamberlain, a middle school teacher at Maple Street School and Burr and Burton assistant boys soccer coach, will be one of the guys on the call.
Patrick Zilkha, the BBA girls junior varsity coach, and Jeff Barclay, the Maple Street athletic director, will also do commentary.
"We were watching the Middlebury-Williams national championship game that NCAA streamed and I think last year [in the Soccer Series] Barclay and Zilkha did a better job than the guys the NCAA hired for a national game," O'Keefe said. "They were entertaining, light-hearted and had good knowledge of the players."
During the BC-UVM game, the announcers will do interviews with BBA coaches at halftime and bring in the internship program that helped with the streaming system and talk with them about its implementation.
While the streaming service is the biggest addition, there are a handful of other smaller improvements at Applejack.
The grass has remained a focus for the town and it's a major reason teams love to play there.
"A new hire of ours has a degree in turf management and he's been overseeing the field for the past couple months," O'Keefe said. "That's one reason people come to Manchester to play. It is without a doubt the nicest grass field in the area. For soccer, it really matters."
They have added a few additional food options, such as chicken tenders and burgers.
They even added premium seating with The Dog Pound, which allows for spectators to watch the game right behind the player benches on the far side of the field.
The Dog Pound is located directly across from the main grandstand and is under the announcing booth and scoreboard on a private elevated deck that overlooks the playing field. The space includes tables and chairs.
It can hold up to 16 people, and includes food delivery from Chief's Concession Stand. Tickets include reserved parking on the east side of the stadium. Tickets are a flat rate of $10 per person, with a minimum of 10 people.
"Each year, we're trying to add something to it to enhance the experience." O'Keefe said. "We're pretty full-featured. We're trying to provide a whole fan experience."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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