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High school track in desperate need of repair

Date: 1/11/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — The study of the renovation of the Agawam High School track continues as the exploratory committee researches the possible use of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the renovation; a 2012 amendment enabled existing outdoor recreation facilities to be eligible for the funding.

No estimated cost has been proposed for the track facility since the scope of the project is being defined.

The CPA defines recreational use as "active or passive recreational use including, but not limited to, the use of land for community gardens, trails, and noncommercial youth and adult sports, and the use of land as a park, playground or athletic field."

If the final design includes artificial grass for the field, other funding will be required since CPA funds are not to be used for the purchase of artificial turf for athletic fields, according to the CPA website.

Lou Conte, retired Agawam High School athletic director and chair of the Track Committee, said, "This is the original track that was built when the new school was built in 1955. For 50 years the spring season would arrive and the field maintenance department would rototill the track and bring in trap dust to fill in where needed."

He continued, "In approximately 2006, it became difficult to find the trap dust to bring in and it became too much of a project to prepare for competition."

Conte described the current state of the track as "an antiquated running area."

City Councilor and Track Committee member, George Bitzas said, "The track and surrounding athletic area is a necessity for high school kids and the people of Agawam. It's for the community, for people of all ages to enjoy."

He continued, "It's a disgrace [the current condition of the track]. Improving the facility needs to be a priority for the town. The track team cannot host meets or even practice at their own school, they have to utilize the tracks of surrounding area schools — that's unthinkable."

David Stratton, director of Athletics at Agawam High and Track Committee member, said, "Suffield Academy [Suffield, Conn.] has been gracious to allow our students to practice at their school." He noted that another benefit of the gesture is that the students became acclimated to an "all-weather" track, which most meets take place on.

Stratton continued, stating that the very least the facility needs to be updated. He mentioned light structures more than 25 years old as one example of much-needed improvements.

"There's really nothing left to our track," Stratton said. "It looks nothing like it used to — we need to start from scratch."

Bitzas stated that the next step for the committee is to tour other facilities to gather ideas for the design of the high school track and surrounding athletic facility.

The councilor added that a CPA public hearing is tentatively slated for the spring and that the goal is to have the plans for the area completed in time for it.