By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – Commuters traveling along busy Main Street to or from Route 290 most likely have wondered about the construction project that is going on this summer at Pioneer Field, the St. John's High School sports complex. As the school's Headmaster Michael Welch explained, the project is a massive renovation that is long overdue.
Over the last decade, the school has invested $12 million in academic improvements. But the last time any money was invested into Pioneer Field, the home to the school's baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football teams, was 1982.
“Our philosophy has always been to make appropriate capital investments at the proper times in our history,” he said. “We also try to maintain [investments] long beyond the [natural] life cycle.”
All capital projects are funded by philanthropic gifting, he stressed, and not from tuition fees.
Several pressing issues made the complex project a priority, Welch said, including the fact it was not handicapped accessible. With the installation of a concrete walkway that leads from the parking lot to the field, a ramp to both dugouts, and stadium style seating behind home plate that is wheelchair accessible American with Disabilities (ADA) requirements will be met.
“Stadium seating will take care of ADA needs and provide a great MLB feel for spectators,” Welch said.
Over the last two decades water drainage has also been a problem at the complex, particularly the baseball field.
“A large part of this project is drainage and water management storage,” he said. “It's important to us to be good stewards of environment, as well as provide a safe place for our students.”
Increased construction in the area had often times added to the flow ending up on the field, he noted, particularly after rainstorms.
“Drainage has been terrible there. With the amount of construction going on to the east of the fields and the great amount of impervious materials from on top of the hill, water always ends up in right field,” Welch said.
The installation of a new drainage system will help to alleviate those problems, he noted. And a new 100-head sprinkler system will help to keep the grass green during the summertime.
Nearly 65 percent of the school's student body participates in a sport at the complex. These improvements, Welch said, will help make the complex one of the “premier natural grass facilities in the region.”
Although St. John's is not a public school but rather a private one, it takes very seriously the need to be a good neighbor in the town, Welch said.
“The field is right near a major gateway [the Route 290 interchange] to the town,” he said. “So we are also making an upgrade in the fence to provide an aesthetically pleasing sight line.
“We are very proud of being located in the beautiful town of Shrewsbury,” he added. “We want to help provide the best possible look that we can.”