Fields Committee Update

Dear HYS Families,

As our season winds down, I hope all of you have enjoyed seeing our children playing this spring. Despite the many challenges with weather and our field conditions, we have seen many smiling faces every Saturday and on our weeknight training sessions.

I am happy to report that our first use of the new HHS turf field took place this past week when we held Travel assessments. I personally heard from many children and parents about how impressed they were with the new playing surface. I want to thank HHS Athletic Director Thomas O'Brien for working with us to make this happen and for exploring playing opportunities for our kids in future seasons. This is a huge positive for us.

President David Lefcourt and I would like to publicly thank Mayor Fiorentini and Human Services Director, Vincent Ouellette for meeting with us this past Friday and opening a fresh dialogue about how we can work together to improve the quality of the fields that are available for soccer.

According to Mr. Ouellete, the work being done at Consentino School this Spring should benefit HYS's fall program. It is highly likely that our In-Town and Development programs will be there in September. The Travel program games will likely be played at three different locations around the city.

In July of 2016, the city published an “OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION PLAN FOR THE MASSACHUSETTS EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS – DIVISION OF CONSERVATION SERVICES” in which the Recreation Department prioritizes soccer fields on page 95: (A link to a PDF of this plan with highlighted parts relevant to soccer is below)

“Recreation Department Priorities, 2016 (In Order of Importance)

Soccer Fields - Due to increased popularity/ participation in sport, additional fields are needed.”

With an eye toward the Spring of 2020, we proposed two ideas that might have been effective in improving field conditions for all of our kids and ultimately help the city attain this goal.

The first was to use a portion of Riverside Park for a pilot program to test the viability of having soccer fields. This was rejected almost immediately as the subject was raised, primarily because of the need to relocate softball leagues that would normally use those fields, and to protect the grass from the wear and tear of soccer. One area currently designated as a soccer field at the park is being rehabbed for use in the fall and will be a 7v7 size field.

The second idea was to either sub-let or become a third-party to the St. James lease which the city is currently negotiating with the Archdiocese. St. James field has taken quite a beating this spring, and will require some major work. Our proposal was to take over two-thirds of the field, leaving adequate outdoor space for the school children. HYS would maintain and control the rest of the field for our exclusive use. The Mayor indicated that he would not allow exclusive use by any single entity. I asked that if we were to invest in field improvements, could we get some preferential use and he indicated that he would be open to that idea. But as an unlocked public field, that would mean that HYS would run the risk of having fields we built torn up by sports other than soccer.

Our conversation also led to other areas of the city that might be suitable for new soccer field development including some private land that might be available for lease.

As we left the meeting, Dave and I agreed that private land may be our best option for HYS in the long term if we are to live up to the phrase in our mission statement, “...dedicated to the task of promoting and enhancing the culture of soccer in the city of Haverhill.” The HYS Board and Fields Committee will continue to explore all options available to us so that the children in our program, and all around the city can experience the love of the game of soccer.

I'll leave you with a quote that my father used to say, that I think applies our the HYS Community. - “We can to anything, miracles just take a little longer.”

Let's get to work.

Eddie Felker, Fields Director


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