East Lyme - Residents, members of the boards of selectmen and education, teachers, school staff and students of the summer school program gathered at East Lyme High School Thursday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $3.45 million athletic complex project.
The project will replace the grass football field with an artificial turf field as well as install a new track, build new bleachers, improve parking and relocate the main entrance to the field to the driveway by the firehouse on Boston Post Road.
The parking lot is scheduled to be finished by Aug. 28, the field by Oct. 16 and the track by Nov. 17, though those dates are subject to weather and other variables.
At the ceremony, Superintendent of Schools James Lombardo made clear that the end result, the East Lyme Athletic Complex, will be for the entire community, not just the school.
"This is a big deal for the town," Selectman Mark Nickerson said. "I bring my kids here to play baseball, and I look out at this track, and I see close to 20 people putting it to use at any time. This isn't just a high school thing. This is going to be a communitywide thing that people will use."
Selectman Kevin Seery spoke about the opportunity that an updated field presents to the community, saying he believed it will be something people can be proud of.
"The soil here contains the blood, sweat and tears of everyone that has ever competed on this field," he said, paraphrasing Mary Ellen Andres, an involved parent. "It is so deep in the soil that they will never be able to dig it up. This field will always be here and be part of every athlete and band member that competed on it."
First Selectman Paul Formica commended the town for working together to make a seven-year-old dream of building the complex a reality.
"This has been hanging around for quite some time, and it took the cooperation of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Education and the Board of Finance. That kind of cooperation is how you move things forward and get things done," he said. "Now let's break this ground so we can get some games going."