After two hours of public comment mostly debating the controversial addition of a turf field, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) district committee voted 5-4 in favor of phase one of a plan to renovate the athletic facilities.
The first phase—which is part of a larger plan designed by consultant Chris Huntress to rebuild the school athletic facilities with one turf field and five grass fields—includes a new track that will encircle the synthetic turf field as part of the MVRHS game stadium adjacent to Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
Retired field hockey coach Lisa Knight said, “You give hockey ice, you give swimming a pool, golf a course, sailing the ocean, and baseball the field of dreams. Sports like soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse deserve the proper playing surface too: turf.”
Field hockey captain Abby Marchand said, “I will be playing in college and I struggled trying to get the necessary turf training with the current facilities and all the trips off-Island and dollars spent playing on club teams.This approval makes me very hopeful for the athletes of the future who, with these renovations, could learn the skills at home and who will be able to compete at a higher level because of it.
Beyond the addition of turf, the new track ands it’s changed location offers a more durable surface and a better spectator opportunity. The current track sits on the other side of Sanderson Avenue, away from the other athletic facilities.
“I run track and play baseball,” said Junior Isaac Richards, “and having been able to play on a well-maintained minor league baseball field has helped our team immensely because people are able to support us and we have a great place to practice and play games. The spectator sport aspect I’ve experienced in baseball has been missed in track, and I think having the track moved to the main game stadium would invite the community to watch meets and support the track team.”
Head cross country and track coach Joe Schroeder said, “Currently, we’re hidden away from everything and everyone on the opposite side of the road from all for the sports, and we feel like second class citizens.”
Two years ago the track was condemned due to safety issues from not being updated, and no home meets could be held there as a result. The track was resurfaced as a three-year band-aid solution which is running out of time.
“It’s a hard sell for kids to join the team when you don’t have the facility to back it up. Other teams still have the perception that we don’t have safe facilities, so they won’t come run against us at home,” said Coach Schroeder.
The current cost of the first phase is estimated to be around $4 million, with the whole project being about $11 million, and how administrators will go about funding the project remains unclear. The project is expected to be reviewed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission before continuing to move forward.
“This vote was a step, and I have faith in the Vineyard community to get this done sooner rather than later,” said Coach Schroeder.
Athletic director Mark McCarthy supported the plan at the school committee meeting and advocated for immediate action. “Our children have waited way too long,” he said.