SWAMPSCOTT — The newly-designed Blocksidge Field is being admired on a national level.
The athletic field has been recognized as an award winner by the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) in the group’s single field category for 2019. Built in two years, the newly-designed organic turf field was a decade-long anticipated project.
“From a selfish point of view, I wish this field was done five years earlier so my two boys got to play on it, but I’m grateful my daughter got to play one season of field hockey on it,” said Gino Cresta, Assistant Town Administrator of Operations/DPW Director, and one of the people who led the building committee. “We were one of the last communities to have a turf field. We’d go to away games and look at their beautiful fields and say how lucky they were, then we finally caught up and ended up outdoing most of them.”
With the football legacy that is Big Blue, Cresta said it was a shock the town went so long without a turf field, grandstand, and lights. He considers the field to be one of the most special parts of town, one that residents will forever be able to enjoy, he said.
Swampscott native Chris Huntress, of HUNTRESS Sports, was one of the Blocksidge Field project architects. His team handled all the designs, engineering, and permitting, he said.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Huntress. “This field has so many good memories and I made so many good friends there in my youth. It was a pleasure to be able to work on that site and make it ready for the next generation of kids who are going to play and make connections on the field like I did.”
The project, which cost about $1.9 million, came with its challenges, said Huntress. Given the site is so close to the ocean, it had groundwater that was subject to high and low tide and building over that was not simple, he said.
Another challenge that arose when they ripped up the ground of the old field was the realization that the site was a dumping ground from its debut going back to the 1930s, Huntress said.
“Residents could bring their trash down, light it on fire, and drive away,” he said. “Under that field we found a kitchen sink, pistols, rakes, car parts, and all kinds of debris, which represented a certain challenge on its own. We had to put geo-technical fabric on the field, which is a structural mesh used to keep the field more stable.”
Huntress and his design team also found a way around using crumb rubber, which he said is known for its human health-related issues. They came up with the idea to use a blend of coconut and cork ground fibers for the turf field, which was quickly approved by the town’s Board of Health before implementation, he said.
Also part of the project was the removal of the decrepit tennis courts, where the landscaped entry park now beautifully sits, said Huntress. The cleanly designed field would not have been completed if it weren’t for the many donors, the project committee members, and the support of the whole town, he added.
“I am extremely proud to have been part of that project team,” he said. “The people in Swampscott love their sports and particularly this site because it is hallowed ground. When talking about Blocksidge Field, everybody knew it had to be done right. And we only had one chance.”
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