The work has finally begun on the new Greenfield High School.
Oh what exciting times these are at the school, as students and faculty will surely enjoy trying to work and learn amidst a construction zone. Nothing like trying to take a calculus test with the rumbling of heavy equipment outside the window, or, if you are a student, parking your car in the back lot of the rundown, old Friendly’s building on Federal Street and walking through Shattuck Park to school. And by the way, I’ve lived in Greenfield now for 31 years and I still don’t know how Shattuck Park can be considered a park. I envision a park as a place where you bring your kids or have a picnic. All Shattuck Park ever did was provide a place to sneak through when cutting class, and certainly a place best avoided after dark. But I digress.
And in terms of me being snarky toward the GHS construction, I am, of course, joking. I think it’s great that the town of Greenfield is getting a new high school. As it was, the hub of Franklin County had one of, if not the most run down high schools in the county. An upgrade was in order and if all goes according to plan, this town will have a beautiful learning facility in a couple of years. Unfortunately, students and faculty will have to be patient amidst the chaos and do their best to adept to the ever-changing environment around them.
“It is what it is,” Greenfield athletic director Mike Kuchieski said. “It’s going to be inconvenient for a lot of people. We understand that. But we are getting a brand new school.”
I spoke with Kuchieski last week about how the new construction is going to affect the school’s athletic department. It’s going to impact a number of teams, and plenty of the fans attending games. But, as he said, it is what it is.
First and foremost to be affected is the parking for any games played at Veterans Memorial Field, where the football, baseball and softball teams play. If you’ve driven by the school in the past week or so, you’ll notice that the entire parking lot is pretty much closed off and construction crews have already begun digging up the pavement to make way for the foundation of the new building. Faculty must now park in the lot off of Kent Street, once used sparingly in my memory. I drove past the other day and noticed that there are even cars parking on the gras along the fence that runs along the north boundary, behind where the soccer goals would be. This Kent Street parking lot does have visitor parking during school hours, and after school is open to those attending athletic games. According to Kuchieski, there are about 100 parking spots in the lot and the construction crew, including Matt Lafond, who is in charge of on-site operations, have worked well with the school to make sure the impact is as minimal as possible. That includes putting in a walkway that runs from the lot off Kent Street to the Vets Field ticket booth.
“He’s been outstanding,” said Kuchieski of Laffon. “He’s athletic oriented and has made sure to take care of us the best he can.”
Also, Barr Avenue will remain open to traffic, allowing cars to drive through and park in the roughly 60 parking spots remaining in front of Collins-Moylan Rink. From there, people will have to find a place to park if they are going to a ballgame. Whether it’s along Cleveland Street or Davis Street (including the tennis courts), or Summer Street (maybe using the Bagley and Goodwin Dentist parking lot after business hours), there could be congestion, but with Greenfield not hosting the Turkey Day football game this coming fall, there should be enough parking without things getting too congested. As for rink parking, after the few remaining spots are filled in front, many people will likely have to park on side streets or at the old Friendly’s then make the walk through Shattuck Park.
The 2014-15 basketball season may turn into a bit of a mess and is something Kuchieski is still trying to work out. The school’s gymnasium is not scheduled to be touched until Jan. 1, 2015, which means this winter won’t present any problems, but the basketball teams the following winter will need to figure something out. One idea would be to play more road games, trying to get as many home games taken care of by the end of December. Kuchieski said he’s still not sure about what is going to happen.
How about phys-ed classes? Well, those will move to the shop classroom. I imagine that will make for an interesting couple of months.
Now for some good news. How about the fact that this town will finally have a track? For years, local track & field athletes have been forced to run around on the grass behind the high school. And town folk wishing to run had to do so on streets. Every other school around has a track, and again, the hub of Franklin County had a grass field lined with white paint. It is a definite go that GHS will now feature at least a six-lane track, possibly eight lanes. The town already voted 3-to-1 to fund the track, so it’s now just a question of how many lanes. Kuchieski said it is a huge improvement to the school, but it won’t only be used by students.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s not only going to be good for the school. It’s a community thing. That’s why they voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.”
While some thought the track would go at Veterans Memorial Field, Kuchieski said Vets will not be touched. The track will go behind the high school and there will be a field inside of it. The only question now is whether or not it will be a turf field inside the track. If the school project stays on budget, the school will get a turf field. If things go over budget, then it will simply be grass. That could pose a problem for the soccer and field hockey teams in the fall of 2015, because if the fields do get re-seeded, teams may not be able to play on them that fall. In fact, Kuchieski said if the seeding is done properly, the fields are not supposed to be used for two years. While that is not likely going to happen, it’s another thing the AD will be keeping track of over the next couple of years.
Turners Falls High School football player Ryan Wilder will hold one final benefit to try and bridge the $1,000 gap he has remaining in his quest to raise $5,000 and make the trip to the Australia and Hawaii for the Down Under Bowl.
Wilder will hold a Spaghetti Dinner at St. Kazimierz Society in Turners Falls on May 19 from 4-6 p.m. Cost is $8 for adults and $6 for children 10 & under. The bar will also be open at this time.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is email@example.com.