On February 9, 2021, School Committee (SC) held a joint discussion with the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) regarding the School Department’s priorities for the Hunnewell Track and Field (T&F) projects, and then on February 23 voted to take the following actions:
To move forward with a plan for bathrooms at the Hunnewell T&F using the funding approved at Annual Town Meeting in 2018; and
To further explore team rooms & lighting as a package and engage with the Natural Resources Commission on developing a process for moving forward.
Provided updates to School Committee on 6/22 and on 8/10
Presented project updates on bathroom / team rooms and lighting proposal to SC on 9/14; Committee to vote on proposal 9/28. Depending on SC’s decision, will set date for bringing proposal to NRC
What do the “Hunnewell Track and Field (T&F) Projects” include?
Following a joint discussion with the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), School Committee voted on 2/23/21 to take action on the following projects to enhance the Hunnewell Track and Field:
To move forward with a plan for bathrooms at the Hunnewell T&F using the funding approved at Annual Town Meeting in 2018.
To further explore team rooms & lighting as a package and engage with the NRC on developing a process for moving forward given that, as the steward of the Hunnewell fields, the NRC will need to approve the lighting project.
What is the scope of the Hunnewell T&F lighting project? Why is this a priority now? Is this being driven by the Playing Fields Task Force?
The scope of the lighting project is on scholastic use only. With Wellesley and Newton North being the only high schools in the Bay State conference without lighted fields (note: Newton recently decided to install lighting in the next year or two), a key priority is not only to bring the WHS football team to parity with other high school football teams in the conference, but also to make playing under lights more equitable from a multi-sport and gender standpoint by giving 5 other teams (boys/girls soccer, boys/girls lacrosse, and girls field hockey) the chance to share this same experience, while at the same time bringing them to parity with teams at other high schools. The scope does not include trying to solve the needs of the Playing Fields Task Force which is responsible for, among other things, coordinating scheduling of playing fields in town for non-school use.
Is the lighting project limited in scope to T&F lighting only or does it include other nearby fields? Does it include remediation of lighting at other fields?
The scope of the lighting project is limited to the Hunnewell T&F only. NRC brought in a lighting consultant to look at lighting of Hunnewell Fields, including existing lighting. From what we understand, the replacement of lighting at the Tennis Courts and Multi-Purpose Field is under consideration. The lighting projects are not mutually exclusive, and are being pursued in parallel.
Why is the lighting project referred to as “Track & Field lighting” rather than “Stadium lighting”?
As noted on the signage by the track and field area, WPS calls that site the “Wellesley High School Track & Field.” The term “stadium” connotes a larger structure which may have contributed to the size of the proposal made at Annual Town Meeting for more toilets than necessary for game needs, i.e., the proposal was for 3 bathroom buildings with a total of 29 fixtures. The goal now is to put up a single bathroom building with 10 fixtures.
What are the stages of the Hunnewell fields master plan?
Phase I of the Hunnewell Track & Field “master plan” included the installation of a new track and turf field which was completed in 2016.
The proposal for Phase II was to add bathrooms and team rooms by the Track and Field. While the proposal was approved at Annual Town Meeting in 2018, the funding appropriated was insufficient for both structures, so the project has been stalled.
In many respects, we are currently in Phase II although we have expanded it to also include lighting.
Why were conduits installed before lighting was approved?
Per 2015 Hunnewell Track and Field Renovations FAQs: To avoid having to dig up the track and field in the future, the plans incorporated the addition of underground utilities (electrical, water, sewer, and data) that may possibly be desired in the future. The new conduits will include electrical lines to support a new sound system, power and lighting to 2 ticket booths, pathway lighting, the scoreboard, and any lifesaving equipment.
Why was a policy drafted before neighborhood representatives were identified?
Members of the SC spent considerable time looking at other communities for ideas / approaches to how best to address this topic. The Newton South HS recently went through a similar process with its school community, parks & recreation commission, and neighbors to address issues such as the ones we are addressing here in Wellesley. It seemed appropriate to use their negotiated policy framework as the starting point for discussions with the same stakeholder groups here in town. The intent has always been to gather further input and revise to the needs of Wellesley.
How is the neighborhood being defined? And how are neighborhood representatives being identified?
The “neighborhood” refers to residences in the Hunnewell T&F area, i.e., on all streets around the perimeter of the Hunnewell Fields complex as well as Clifford, Cottonwood and Twitchell. Refer to p. 6 of the slide deck from SC meeting on 8.10.21 for maps showing which streets are considered part of the neighborhood.
Neighborhood reps will ideally be identified through a survey to be issued during the month of August 2021 when T&F area neighbors will be asked to respond to questions about lighting as well as to indicate whether they have interest in the role through that survey.
What is the approval process, and what other town boards are involved? What are the next steps, what is the decision making process?
The approval process is expected to go as follows: Bathrooms and team rooms were approved by Annual Town Meeting in 2018, but not lighting.
Lighting proposal will get presented to SC at a meeting (current target 8/31), and SC will vote on it at a subsequent meeting;
Lighting proposal will get presented to NRC at a meeting (targeting mid-Sept.), and NRC will hold a Public Hearing and then vote on it at a subsequent meeting.
If approval is given, this will be a new application that will have to go through a site plan process with the Zoning Board of Appeals, wetlands and Design Review Board. Original permitting included storm water and other utility connections envisioning future enhancements such as team rooms and bathrooms. Note this process is under the new lighting by-law.
What is the mechanism to ensure no changes or no unapproved changes are made to any accepted policy related to lighting?
The mechanism for keeping changes, in particular, unapproved changes, from being made to any accepted policy related to lighting is ensuring neighborhood representatives and School representatives are identified and work together to finalize the lighting usage policy and also to define a process for collaborating and signing off on policy changes.
What is the Need/Who Can Use Lighting Questions
Will bathrooms be available to everyone, not just athletes? Who can use the bathrooms and when?
Bathrooms in the standalone bathroom structure (separate from the team rooms) will be available to everyone during games and events on the T&F. The ADA bathrooms will be open to everyone for the same hours as Aqueduct bathroom (to be installed), even when there is not a game or event taking place.
Who will have access to lighting other than Wellesley High School teams?
As is the case with the PA system, we envision that the only individual who will have access to the lighting will be the Wellesley Public Schools Athletic Director (and perhaps the Assistant AD).
Is a temporary lighting solution a possibility, similar to what was utilized in the past? Exactly what are the details of the warranty, e.g., how long does it last? Could temporary lights be located somewhere else other than on the track itself, even if not the best option of lights directly on the track/field itself?
From 2005 to 2015, use of temporary lights only made sense for a single game each year (at ~$5K/event) due to a number of factors: noise from generators; glare/trespass from a sub optimal lighting solution; risk of further damage to 40+ year old track; etc).
When the track and turf field were installed in 2016, there was a 1-year warranty against defects and workmanship on the rubberized track, whereas there is a 10-year warranty on the field’s “carpet.”
Even though the warranty on the track has expired, the Schools are certainly not willing to risk damaging the track, given that the goal is to be able to utilize it for another 50 years.
Musco Lighting has provided quotes for temporary sports lighting solutions that range from $35K to $150K per month depending on how far away from the track the poles would need to be mounted. It should be noted that their proposal includes poles that are 50-70′ tall, i.e., heights that are needed to provide enough illumination while not being in an athlete’s line of sight for safe sports play.
Is there a demonstrated need, is there proper utilization of existing resources? Why not look at other town resources for non school use? Why does the multi purpose field not suffice?
As noted above, the scope of the lighting project is on scholastic use only and does not include solving the needs for the Playing Fields Task Force around non-school use. The football team practices on the multipurpose field in November. WHS football practices end up displacing youth football practices which in turn must end later. T&F lights would only be needed for the late afternoon practices.
How can neighbors get assurance that usage will not be expanded to include youth sports teams and private leagues?
The mechanism for ensuring that no unapproved changes, incl. The expansion of usage to include youth sports teams or private leagues is ensuring neighborhood representatives and School representatives have been identified and are working together to finalize the lighting usage policy and also to define a process for collaborating and signing off on policy changes.
How does the current policy affect students – how many have to leave class early to participate in games?
Varsity teams must be released from school early for home MIAA State Tournament games in the Fall given the lack of lights. There is not enough daylight to get an afternoon game in. The early release is usually right after the lunch block at 12:30 pm. Those games (Field Hockey, Girls Soccer and Boys Soccer) are scheduled by the MIAA for a 2 pm start on weekdays. Obviously, it depends on the year, our teams record and seeding as to which teams must be released. Typically this happens every fall in non-COVID times. Neutral site games do not happen in the current playoff system until the state semifinals. It could be up to four games per team or none. We typically have every team qualify for the state tournament.
As far as practice is concerned, there are two different needs: (1) late afternoon use of lights for our fall teams when daylight savings ends – this would mean practicing at normal times and ending at roughly 6 pm; and (2) practicing under the lights at night to prepare properly to play a night game. We do not expect these practices to occur regularly just a few times prior to the individual teams playing games under the lights so that they can get used to it and be able to play safely.
Noise, Traffic and Trash Questions
Noise going into the evening would cause distress – how do you propose addressing that? Will the decibel level for the sound system be reviewed?
The Schools have hired an audio consulting firm, CavanaughTocci, to conduct a sound study and to make recommendations for how to improve the sound system by leveraging the height of the proposed lighting poles for elevating speakers. We understand that, as with lighting, speakers can be directed downwards which will help reduce the level of sound that would travel beyond the T&F.
How will traffic be managed?
Since football games draw the largest attendance, the goal would be to move traffic out as quickly as possible. WPD would be there for traffic management. For any night game, regardless of which sport is being played, WPD would plan as if there is a football game being played and would scale back as needed. Overall goal is to keep traffic flowing and allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Parking – who bears the cost of WPD details, can traffic exit to Seaver Street, what are the traffic mitigation and calming plans, have traffic studies been conducted?
Since football games draw the largest attendance, the goal would be to move traffic out as quickly as possible. WPD would be there for traffic management as well as pedestrian safety – officers would be posted at crosswalks to ensure people get to the parking lot safely.
The cost of WPD details would likely be borne by the Schools, ideally covered by funds in one of their revolving accounts. When WHS was constructed, the road that cuts through the WHS campus was intended to be used for busing only, not parent drop off and pickup. As a result, it is difficult to use that cut-through as an exit onto Seaver St. given the way the road is designed. With events at or around WHS when large numbers of attendees are expected, WPD will post temporary no parking signs, sometimes on one or both sides. Those signs are removed that night or next day. For any night game, WPD would plan as if there is a football game being played, and will scale back as needed. Overall goal is to keep traffic flowing and allow emergency vehicles to pass.
How will trash pickup be handled?
WHS custodians are responsible for picking up trash following any game or event that takes place at the T&F. DPW would then make a sweep the following day.
WPS Athletic Director John Brown said he is the point of contact at the Schools should any issues arise with noise, traffic, or trash when it comes to the Track and Field. He suggested that people reach out to WPS Athletics.
What is the impact of lighting on the environment?What is the impact on wetlands, trees and invertebrates?
A key guiding principle for the lighting proposal has been to prioritize responsible implementation in order to mitigate the potential impact of lighting as much as possible. Steps to be taken include:
making sure the design is Darksky compliant (the design has already been reviewed by the International Darksky Association).
minimizing the spillage and glare of the lighting on adjacent resources. Given the utilization of IDA compliant lighting, less than 1/10 of 1 foot candle of light is anticipated to be at the edge of the brook.
Conducting an assessment of potential impacts of lighting on the adjacent wetland wildlife habitat. The team is considering bringing in an environmental engineering and consulting company to perform such an assessment to supplement the findings of the consultant which the Natural Resources Commission had hired.
What about the Climate Action Plan? Will the Schools commit in writing to supporting the CAP which ATM voted to embrace?
The proposed LED lights use very little energy and are projected to generate just 1.3 metric tons of carbon emissions each year (assuming 100 hours of use). This is less than 16% of the carbon emissions from a typical household and approximately a third of a typical passenger car (per EPA website).
Members of School Committee have recommended powering Hunnewell Track & Field lights with 100% renewable energy, which would reduce the carbon emissions to zero. Based on current MLP cost projections, this could be done for around $200/yr.
How will fundraising be handled? Why is there a marketing campaign for the lights? Is funding the driver of the project, what is the transparency around fundraising? Why private vs town funding – why not have a town vote?
The bathroom and the team room were expected to be funded by Article 17 of the 2018 Annual Town Meeting. The funds allocated at the time ($525K) were insufficient to cover both projects. In March 2021, SC voted to move forward with using the funds to build the bathroom. Funds for the team room would need to come from either town or private funding, as this facility is not eligible for CPC funding. No marketing campaign will begin until SC and NRC vote to approve the installation of lighting, and the SB has approved the use of private funding for the project (as required by NRC policy).
DPW engaged Weston & Sampson (W&S) to assist with bathroom/team room sizing & placement
Received balance of $175K for bathrooms from Field Fund (SB accepted on 5/10)
Next step – W&S to work with Building & Health Depts. to reduce # of fixtures
Next Step – identify neighbor reps to finalize proposal to bring to NRC
Recent Community Events
Abutters/neighbors meeting held on May 27: Hunnewell T&F neighbors were invited to: hear what is being considered by school dept., share feedback, ask questions, and discuss the idea of identifying neighborhood reps to serve as points of contact for WHS re: the T&F projects.
Community forum held on June 2: Community members learned about what is being considered for all 3 projects and in particular from a lighting perspective based on school department’s requirements, shared feedback and asked questions.