Stonington graduation uprooted by installation of artificial turf

Stonington - School officials will need to find a new location for the Stonington High School graduation this June.

The change is needed to accommodate the upcoming installation of the artificial turf football field, which is where the June graduation is typically held. The track, meanwhile, encircles the field and cannot be used during the project, so practice this spring for the track team will be moved to Westerly High School.

Principal Stephen Murphy said Friday the first option for graduation is to hold it inside the gymnasium, where the ceremony is held during inclement weather, and simulcast the ceremony to the air-conditioned auditorium and commons area. He said that was what the school did this year, and it worked well.

He said the second option is to hold graduation at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. But the academy needs to have a firm date, something that is difficult to do until April because of the possibility that snow days could change the last day of school.

The third option is to hold it on the girls' soccer field, but that would mean spending money to rent chairs and possibly tents, as there are no bleachers.

Murphy said he expects to make a decision by February.

As for the track team, members will be bused to Westerly after dismissal and then have to find rides home.

First Selectman Ed Haberek said Friday that the town will also have to decide whether to use the new artificial turf field for future graduation ceremonies as chairs and other items on the field could damage it.

On Wednesday, the Athletic Fields Improvement Oversight Committee held a kick-off meeting to discuss details of the $2.7 million project, which voters approved this year. On hand was the consulting firm the town has hired to oversee the work, Milone & MacBroom of Cheshire, which was recently in charge of the installation of an artificial turf field at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs.

Work at Stonington High is slated to begin in April or May and will be completed in time for the beginning of football season next fall.

Work to rebuild the softball, boys soccer and field hockey fields will begin after that and be completed in 2014. Improvements will also be made to other parts of the athletic complex.

Haberek said that while work is going on, sports will be shifted among the available fields. He said Westerly has offered the use of its fields as well.

The artificial turf field will be lined for football, field hockey and lacrosse, something the committee discussed Wednesday as well as what type of turf and infill to use. The town will soon begin seeking bids for the project.


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