CENTRAL FALLS – Macomber Stadium is a central part of Central Falls, according to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, as the field at the corner of Blackstone and High streets has served as the home for generations of athletes on Central Falls High School’s football, soccer, baseball and softball teams.
But players on those teams became road Warriors starting last fall, after it was decided that Macomber Stadium’s field was unsuitable for play due to contaminated soil. Since then, the four programs have played every game on the road.
“Last year was very devastating for local sports in our community,” Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa said. “We only get to enjoy three percent green space … (Macomber) was not in the best condition and left our teams without a home turf.”
That will all change soon, as Macomber Stadium received $300,000 for field
remediation; renovations to the irrigation system, the bleachers and dugouts; and installation of a perimeter fence. The work on Macomber is part of an overall $3 million in matching grants to 15 communities across Rhode Island to develop or renovate recreational facilities in their cities and towns. The grants were awarded by the Department of Environmental Management and announced on Tuesday morning.
The grants, which require a community match and range from $77,600 to $300,000, are funded through 2016 Open Space bond proceeds. The state grants will be matched by local funding to generate over $5 million in recreational project improvements throughout Rhode Island.
Including the 19 projects in 15 cities and towns announced on Tuesday, 519 grants have been awarded and $73 million has been invested in improvements in each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns since the inception of DEM’s community recreation grant in 1988.
Macomber Stadium served as the home for Tuesday’s press conference announcing the grants. Raimondo, Diossa, and officials from across the state stood at a podium where the end zone would be if the Warriors were playing football at the field.
“From Burrillville to Barrington,” the projects will be seen, Raimondo said. “For open space, parks, fields, to give Rhode Island families an opportunity to go out and play.”
Macomber, the governor said, has been home to countless “great memories” for student athletes and their families, and the field has served as an “anchor for the community where people play and get to know each other. Families deserve a cleaner, better place.”
Diossa said he was thrilled at the prospect of returning Central Falls High’s teams to their home field, saying “we’ll finally have our fields back and have home-turf advantage and play under the lights.”
Officials from Central Falls said the work on Macomber Stadium will begin next spring, and the decision on whether to continue to play on the road for the 2018-19 school year will be “revisited” later this year.
Central Falls High athletic director and assistant football coach Anthony Ficocelli said the finished product at Macomber is “going to be great. It’ll be great to be here Friday nights, to have kids in the community support it. It’ll be great to be back at Macomber.”
Central Falls athletics coach Manny Silva said “a moment like this is very special. It’s something that’s very important on behalf of the youth in the community.”
Having been involved in Central Falls and youth sports for almost 20 years, Silva said he understands the importance that sports and a field to call their own can have on a young athlete.
“Something like this effects our children, to not have a field to participate, but today’s a special day in Central Falls,” Silva said. “Words really can’t come out, there would be so many at once, but I’m excited for the city.”
DEM Director Janet Coit said Macomber Stadium has been home to victories and disappointments, championships and life lessons. But while the contaminants in the field aren’t necessarily hazardous, Coit said the “low-level contamination” needs to be addressed.
“Nothing’s more basic than having a safe place to play,” Coit said. “It’s critical to public health.”
Raimondo also used Tuesday’s announcement to call on legislators to put on the ballot a $48.5 million green economy and clean water bond, which would seek to improve local recreation, bikeways, farmland and open space, state parks, brownfields, coastal resiliency and public access, clean water and drinking water, wastewater treatment facility resilience, and dam safety.
“The amount of work we can do is transformative,” Raimondo said.
In addition to the improvements at Macomber Stadium, here are some of the local projects in the pipeline that will be funded by the $3 million in matching grants announced Tuesday:
Burrillville: $100,000 for dog park and walking paths. Installation of a new fenced dog park near the existing animal shelter, walking paths, landscaping, and a 24-foot-wide driveway with 24 parking spaces.
Central Falls: $100,000 for River Island campground renovation. Create additional camp sites and renovate the existing campground, walking trails, and footbridge; increase kayak access points to the Blackstone River; remove poison ivy; and add new fire pits.
Cumberland: $100,000 for Eptheta Park multi-use field and sensory playground. Installation of a new multi-use field and sensory playground equipment for ages one through eight, and a six-car gravel parking lot.
Lincoln: $300,000 for Fairlawn Park renovation. Installation of new basketball and pickleball courts, shade pavilion, and concession stand; replacement of a play structure; and renovation of an existing walkway path, outfield fencing, and the exterior of an existing restroom.
Woonsocket: $300,000 for Cass Park softball field improvements and playground renovation. Installation of a new softball field, fencing and netting, benches, lighting, paved walkways, a new lawn area, scoreboard improvements, and renovation of an existing playground.
Follow Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette
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