Social and Political Commentary

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High School running track never included in plans for new high school fields.

... desired improvements to the baseball and football fields eliminated
room for a running track.

by Joe Sullivan

Addition of Concession Stand is one of improvements that pushed out space for running track.

Park Commissioner John McLaughlin took strong exception to an  
observation expressed by the Melrose Mirror reporter at the Commission’s
June 10 meeting. The observation was that the Feasibility Study for the
High School Athletic Complex showed that, from the beginning, the High
School running track would be excluded from its historic location at the
High School Field.

The Feasibility Study which is at the heart of the plan to build the new
complex was prepared for the City by Gale Associates, Inc. of Weymouth

McLaughlin said that for as long as ten years efforts were made to
develop a regulation-size running track at the high school field but that
it could not be done. It was concluded that the track would have to be
moved to another location.

For whatever the Commissioner’s experience that’s not quite what the
Feasibility Study said, which was, that including a regulation track
presented a challenge. Doing so would not allow separate, a regulation-
sized field for baseball and a
rectangular field (which would be used for football, soccer, lacrosse and
field hockey.) Additionally the track would be subject to floods which
would  impact its long-term sustainability.

City made decision to relocate track.

It should be noticed that the study does not say that a track cannot be
included in a design for the new field. What it does say that if
regulation ball fields are desired, then the running track has to go. Due
to these limitations it was the City, not the study, that made the choice
to move the running track to Pine Banks.

The very first paragraph of the Feasibility Study says, “The pending
relocation of the existing track affords an opportunity to reorganize the
athletic campus, resulting in significant improvements.”

One of the improvements was moving the location of the athletic
(football) field 70 feet north of its original location that was in known
flooding areas. Doing so put the end zone of the football field so close
to Tremont Street that it was no longer possible to accommodate the
curved surface of a running track. The goal post is now so close to
Tremont Street that a permanent net was built to keep footballs kicked
through the goal post from going out onto Tremont Street.

Pushing the field back toward Tremont Street created a 70-foot space at
the other end of the field. This provided an area to build a new
concession stand and ticket booth. Originally designated to be a team
room with ten fixtures each for ten men and ten women it ha been modified
to house the concession stand, ticket boot hand one unisex bathroom.

Changes eliminate room for running track.

The pushing back of the field and adding the concession building
eliminated completely the space necessary to accommodate a running track.    

If it was the City’s intention that the Pine Banks running track would
have the same facilities and benefits that are found at the new High
School field it has been a significant disappointment.

For the runners there are no changing rooms or showers. There are no
bathrooms. Portable toilets, when they are available, must
be shared with the players and spectators using the other fields.

Probably the biggest privation is that there are no viewing stands to
watch the running events. Track is a spectator sport, but for Melrose Red
Raider spectators everything must be watched from the field level. There
is no place to sit.

What the runners have at Pine Banks is significantly different from what
the ball players have at the High School field complex.

All facilities must be shared with Malden.

These deficiencies at Pine Banks arise from the requirement that any
field built at Pine Banks must be shared by Malden and Melrose. The city
knew that when it decided to relocate. The track could not be exclusive
to the Melrose track teams even if Melrose paid for its entire cost and
Malden paid nothing.

Facilities, too, would have to be shared with Malden. Dressing rooms,
showers, bathrooms would be used for not only Melrose and Malden runners
but by any players using the soccer, softball, or baseball fields.  

Building a new Athletic Field Complex at the High School field that
included all the desired improvements relied on two things. First, the
running track must be relocated and second, a State law could be changed
to allow the City to take Mount Hood golf revenues to pay for both
relocating and building the track and building the High School
field complex.

Common to both of these requirements was that the Aldermen voted to enact
them in a single session on October 3, 2010. Before Mayor Dolan’s press
conference there had been no publication of the City’s intention to
relocate the running track and build a new sports complex.

Mayor Dolan had presented the plan in a morning press conference and the
Aldermen voted its approval that night. This slam-dunk approval process
eliminated any opportunity for people who would be adversely affected by
the vote to ask any questions about the plan.

Reasons for moving track not included in press conference.

The plan for relocating the field had been completed in July but it was
not displayed until the Mayor’s press conference in October. Even if it
had been presented in July the reasons that it would be relocated ie.,its
limitations to the ball fields were not public until November. That’s the
date on the Feasibility Study.

The second part of the Aldermen’s vote the so-called “Special
Legislation” enabled the City to take Mount Hood golf revenues. The
reason it could do this was hidden in the “Special Legislation”. This
legislation set aside a provision in a state law that said that money
generated at Mount Hood could only be spent at Mount Hood. It was
impossible for anyone to learn that by reading
the “Special Legislation.”

Election campaigns present opportunities for questions.

The City is approaching its elections and both the Mayor and many
Aldermen will be standing for office. It would be a good time to ask them
about what happened to our track teams. Do they think it‘s fair to send
the track teams to this second class arrangement at Pine Banks? If not,
why did they vote to do so in October 2010?

All things being the same, would they have voted to send the football
team to this second-class arrangement at Pine Banks instead of the track

More important would be a question that asks whether the Aldermen would
continue to participate in a city government that legislates like this
one? Will procedures be used that deny citizens the right to participate
in deciding civic issues because the aldermen feel the citizens are sure
to be against what’s being proposed?

Or maybe they think that the track-team parents really don't care that
their kids have been exiled to Pine Banks so that the city can have a
swell new athletic complex at the High School Field.

July 5, 2013

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