WEST BATH, Maine — Regional School Unit 1 is the top priority when it comes to use of the city’s playing fields, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department said Monday night.
Steve Balboni and Scott Walker, athletic director at Morse High School, told the RSU 1 Board of Directors of the huge demand for playing time on city fields, and the need for field turf at McMann Field.
Balboni also addressed what turned into somewhat of a controversy in early November, when Hyde School played a night football game on a soggy McMann Field.
Balboni told the board that officials at Bath Middle School had notified him Oct. 24 that the school would not use the field because of its poor condition.
The rec department then agreed to allow Hyde to use the field for a game against Hebron Academy. Hyde, which allows RSU 1 schools to use its field turf field, simply wanted to play a night game, he said.
“There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion afterward,” Balboni said. “Some people thought Hyde was getting preference. But the RSU has field priority.”
Fields used by RSU 1 are city-owned, and the rec department controls their upkeep and usage.
Walker added that Hyde School has been a good neighbor.
“We have developed a very strong relationship with Hyde School,” he said. “We allow each other field use.”
Walker noted that McMann Field was “unplayable” for two weeks late in the season. Two Morse girls soccer playoff matches were moved to another field, as was a Morse football game.
“The bottom line for us is the safety of the kids using the fields,” he said. “If I wouldn’t put my own kids out there, I wouldn’t put the Morse kids out there.”
The rec department has teamed with Fields for Our Future on a drive to install artificial turf at McMann. Balboni told the board that $420,000 of the needed $562,000 has been raised through grants and fundraising.
William Perkins, District 7 director, told Balboni and Walker he supports Fields for Our Future. Perkins, a former athletic director, has coached on turf.
“Field turf solves 80 percent of your problems,” Perkins said. “You can hold events back to back.”
Board Chairman Tim Harkins asked if other schools of Morse’s size have the same number of fields.
“We’re facility-poor,” Walker replied. “We have multiple teams using the same ground, which is frankly a problem.”
Harkins then asked how the school board can help.
“There are opportunities for people to be involved with Fields for Our Future,” Balboni answered.
Said Walker: “The RSU can talk to people.”