New lacrosse and soccer field in sight for Murphy Field
NEWPORT – The city hopes to receive up to half a million dollars over the coming year to make major upgrades to Murphy Field in the South End and the Abbruzzi Sports Complex in the North End.
City Council on Wednesday approved a $400,000 grant application from the state’s Department of Environmental Management to build a multipurpose football and lacrosse field at Murphy Field that would serve students at Rogers High School. .
The council also approved a grant application for $100,000 in DEM to build a full-size basketball court at the sports complex, which will be located where the T-ball court now stands. A future skatepark at the site is also being planned and funded by a private partnership led by a member of the Abbruzzi family, according to a memorandum from City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. to council.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Friends of Newport Skatepark has been formed and a concept design is being worked on, Middletown’s Doug Sabetti told board members.
Two Murphy Field neighbors have expressed concern about their neighborhood plan.
Lat Spinney, of 88 Carroll Ave., said he was not against a training ground in Murphy for high schoolers, but was worried about a “specially designed playground” that would attract bigger crowds. It could cause traffic, parking and safety issues in the neighborhood, he said.
Spinney estimated that the new sports field could take up to two-thirds of the park’s existing space.
Beth Holland, who resides near Murphy Field, said there is not enough maintenance at Murphy Field currently and she is concerned about the city’s ability to maintain the park in the future if more people were coming to the new land.
She asked if there would also be new lighting for the proposed land.
Neighbors have asked the city to do a “feasibility study” of the proposal before any new land is built.
Scott Wheeler, the city’s superintendent of parks, lands and forestry, said council approved $20,000 to hire a consultant to help develop a city parks management plan. Neighbors will be invited to planning sessions, he said.
The Murphy Field baseball diamond hasn’t been used for about 10 years and the field floods every spring, Wheeler said. There are sometimes “sheet flooding” of the park into neighbors’ yards, he said.
Engineers would be hired to install a green infrastructure drainage system to make the land more usable again, he said.
The rusted baseball backstops would be removed and a wide open field with good drainage would be constructed, Wheeler said. Because the areas around football and lacrosse goals are quite battered each season, the pitch would move back and forth across the field to keep the turf as healthy as possible, he said.
Wheeler agreed that there has been a past conflict between the use of Murphy Field by school teams and the passive recreational needs of neighbors.
“We have to strike a balance,” he said.
“The added boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams cannot be supported at Rogers High School,” he said. “And we had been looking for a soccer field for 30 years. At the time, there was one proposed for Ballard Park.
The Abbruzzi complex’s T-ball field would be transferred to Braga Park, as part of the women’s softball field. The grants would cover 80% of the cost of the projects, so the city would add $100,000 to the Murphy Field project and $25,000 to the Abbruzzi project.
Residents have long advocated for a new basketball court in the North End that would be open to teens and adults, as the basketball court at Pell Elementary School is often unavailable.
The city opened a skate park at Easton’s Beach in 1999, but for the most part it didn’t appeal to skateboarders and was torn down by the city in late 2016.
Many times the concrete area of the skatepark was deserted. Sand blew into the area from the beach and rubber pulled out of the joints between the concrete sections, allowing the wheels to jam. The ocean salt has also corroded the steel set in the concrete.
Skateboarders from years past have claimed that the skatepark was designed by a construction company and not by skateboarders, and that it was made up of pre-made sections with elements that weren’t safe. They had been looking for another location for years.