Upgrade the Spinelli complex

On Nov. 2, residents of the Mount Anthony Union school district will be asked to consider a bond that will pay for numerous improvements to the Spinelli High School complex. I am only one vote, but I want to share my point of view.

From 2017 to 2020, I was a member of the Bennington Select Board. I really enjoyed my time on the Select Board as it gave me the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of people. During my many interactions, one of the common concerns I would hear was, “We need more opportunities for young people in this city.” Another was: “What are we doing to keep kids active?”

An upgrade to the Spinelli complex at Mount Anthony Union High School helps address these issues. With an artificial play surface, the possibilities are endless. Not only will participation from high school-age students increase, but local soccer, soccer, and lacrosse will all have an opportunity to use the facilities. With proximity to the Bennington Rec Center, it is possible for YMCA to collaborate with the school to expand their services as well.

As a teacher and coach in the district, I know first hand how involvement in sports and clubs has a direct impact on students. For some, the only reason they are committed to their school and education is to be able to participate in athletics and activities. Data over the years have shown that those who attend extracurricular activities have better grades and fewer disciplinary incidents. Improvements will increase student involvement and help influence some of our most vulnerable students.

A secondary impact of facility improvements will be an economic boom for our community. With camps, tournaments and possible weekend games, families of traveling teams will be looking to eat, stay and play in Bennington. An example is youth wrestling tournaments – during tournament weekends, hotels are crowded and it is always difficult to find a table at Madison’s or Ramunto’s.

Another common topic I heard while I was on the Select Board is how to make Bennington attractive to people moving here. One of the crucial factors that people use for relocation is to examine the schools and recreational opportunities of the area. The proposed improvements will improve high school attraction and provide the type of facilities families are looking for. They will also provide opportunities to build a healthy community and increase personal fitness throughout life, in all age groups.

Finally, and perhaps the most common issue, are taxes. The time is ideal for voters to be asked about the approval of a new bond, because the first of the remaining three bonds from the construction of the high school will be paid this year. The estimated impact of the Spinelli Complex upgrade bonds will be a reduction in the school budget for next year.

For all of these reasons, I urge Mount Anthony Union School District voters to vote in favor of the association for the improvement of the Spinelli Complex.

Chad Gordon, Bennington

Chad Gordon is the head coach of football at Mount Anthony Union High School and a former Bennington Select Board member.

Put the kids first in the Spinelli field plans

While Bennington residents are wondering if they will spend $ 3.5 million on a 82,500-square-foot synthetic playground, it’s worth keeping a few facts in mind.

First, protecting the health of children should be the number one consideration. It is also important to assess the impact of each playground on our natural environment.

Is synthetic soil safe? In other words, is a playground with synthetic turf preferable to natural grass?

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence to suggest that synthetic terrain poses risks to children’s health and the environment that outweigh its potential benefits.

You may recall the big legal solution last year that guaranteed that the U.S. national women’s soccer team would no longer have to play artificial turf matches. Instead, they now play in the natural grass, as the men’s team has done for years. The women had argued that it was discriminatory to force them to play on artificial turf which is harsher on the players body than natural grass.

Some studies have shown that athletes are more likely to suffer injuries while playing sports such as soccer, soccer and rugby on artificial turf versus natural grass. Compared to synthetic turf, a well-maintained grass field can provide a more shock-absorbing surface. Reduced stroke may mean fewer injuries and a faster healing time when injuries occur.

Athletes can also be exposed to much higher temperatures on a synthetic surface than on grass, which has a natural cooling effect that lowers the temperature of the surrounding air. As heat waves become more common and average temperatures continue to rise due to global warming, this is another serious concern.

Beyond athletic injuries, terrain made of plastics and chemicals carries other risks as well. For example, an industry expert talking about the proposed synthetic field in Bennington recently acknowledged that the field would contain PFAS. It was suggested that this particular PFAS chemical was safe, but we know for sure that some PFAS toxins are clearly dangerous and the whole class of PFAS chemicals has been sufficiently studied to determine the complete threat to public health.

In addition to PFAS, many other chemicals and metals have been found in artificial turf fields, from lead to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Industry studies claiming to show that these toxins pose no health threat often fail to consider the synergistic health effects of exposure to many toxic chemicals at the same time.

Of course, a giant plastic field that drowns the earth beneath it runs counter to any sensitive approach to environmental protection or the climate crisis. Consider the fossil fuels extracted and used in the production process, the microplastics and chemical compounds released into the air and water as they are used, and the final disposal – likely in a landfill – once its useful life is over in the very future. distant.

A grassy field is part of our natural environment. It can create healthy soil, absorb water and seize polluting carbon from the climate. It is a better and safer playground for athletes of all ages and Vermont kids have played safe on grassy fields for generations. Natural grass is the best solution for children and our environment.

Paul Burns, Montpelier

Paul Burns is the Executive Director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG).

Time for Spinelli to improve

Dream of a field field and an improved athletic complex at Mt. Anthony Union has been at work for over a decade, but the possibility of this dream becoming a reality is only a few days away.

As the former Director of Activities at MAU, it was a year-to-year struggle over when would be the “right time” to bring this project to the attention of voters. It seemed like every year when it came time to pool school budgets, it just was not imaginable to go to the voters and demand the improvement of a sports environment when budgets were being funded less than the level, teachers were being laid off. , and operating costs continued to rise.

With an extraordinary staff of buildings and terrain that felt extremely proud of their work, Spinelli Field always seemed pristine for the first home game of the season under the lights when the football and football season began in August.

Unfortunately, to achieve this goal, in the fall the number of games to be played on the field had to be limited and the field had to be completely closed in the spring and summer to recover. This raised issues of equality and caused resentment in the athletic community – especially from lacrosse parents who could not understand why their children could not enjoy the same enthusiasm to play under the podium lights in the spring season as their counterparts of football or football made in the fall. It was also a shame that the South Vermont Storm semi-pro football program could be limited to just one or two games. Over the years we were forced to turn down requests from collegiate football programs to showcase their teams and an endless number of groups were frustrated by the unavailability of the pitch when “they pay taxes for the pitch” just like everyone else.

Even with limited use, the field was in extremely poor condition at the time the play-offs took place in October. The inability to install drainage near the runway left the bench area of ​​the house and team of visitors and parts of the playground under water after heavy rain throughout the season. The games simply could not be played if there was rain in anticipation for fear of safety issues and turning the field into a cow pasture.

The project, which will be voted on on November 2, is not just about a field. In fact, it accounts for less than a third of the project cost. New LED lighting will be installed which will allow the “small ball” game (lacrosse, baseball, softball, etc.) to be installed, and also included in the $ 3.5 million price is a delayed runway renovation and building replacement . which houses the ticket booth, bathrooms and storage.

Just imagine, lacrosse games under the lights at Spinelli, spring sports teams coming out of the gym for pre-season training, practices that can last until the evening after sunset. The Physical Education Department may conduct morning classes in dry areas and not be in difficulty to work around the maintenance department’s daily need to mow and line the field. The Storm football team can play its home games in front of larger crowds under the stadium seat lights, and many other outdoor groups – young and old – can finally get a “piece of action”. in Spinelli in autumn, spring and summer. months. The possibilities are endless.

This project was well thought out and researched by a stakeholder committee that has a special interest in the school and the community. They understand the difficulty the community has faced with raising property taxes to fund schools and the city. But taxpayers are taking a break this year, as one of the major bonds for the “new” East High School built on East Road expires this year and the “cost per year” for the Spinelli Field project is less than the expiring bond.

For the past 10 years, time has never been right. The time is right now. Find a way to go to the polls on November 2, or try to get an absentee ballot from the city office and give the whole community something we can all be proud of. We all deserve this.

Tim Brown, Bennington

Tim Brown was Director of Activities at Mount Anthony from 1988 to 2017.