Matching grant floated for Amherst track project
|Published: 07-24-2023 10:17 AM
AMHERST — Raising private money for the $4.74 million project to rebuild and reorient the Amherst Regional High School track and its interior playing field is continuing, with a matching grant announced last week by an Easthampton bank.
Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced Friday that the bank is awarding up to $25,000 in a matching grant to support the Amherst Hurricane Athletic Boosters’ campaign, known as the Transformative Uses for Regional Fields Project, or T.U.R.F. Project. With support from parents and community members, the total could reach as much as $50,000.
Sosik said in a statement that the bank is looking forward to the impactful project breaking ground.
“What an amazing opportunity for student-athletes to have a facility like this to use year-round to help unlock their full potential,” Sosik said.
The matching grant gives parents, families and community members the opportunity to purchase a seat or row in the new stands that would receive a named plaque. Contributions may be sent to the Amherst Hurricanes Boosters office at 141 No. Pleasant St. P.O. Box 758 Amherst, 01002, or made at hurricaneboosters.com.
The idea for the grant came after the Boosters approached bankESB, which has a branch in Amherst at 253 Triangle St., just a short distance from the existing track, in search of a community partner to help replace the track, built in 1999, and the grass field, which is often in poor condition, with a usable, eight-lane track and year-round playable field.
To support the group’s fundraising initiative, it sought a partner who shared a commitment to eco-friendly facilities, health and wellness, equal access, safety and innovation.
In May, the Boosters held a summer kick-off party and fundraiser at the branch.
Still, there have been questions about the ongoing fundraising and whether enough can be raised privately, after the smaller towns that make up the school district, Shutesbury, Pelham and Leverett, have largely rejected directing Community Preservation Act money toward the project, with concerns centered on the use of artificial turf and the potential PFAS contamination this may cause.
The superintendent’s office on Friday said there is no update on the project, but it’s expected to be on the agenda when the Regional School Committee meets the first time during the fall semester.
In January, the Amherst Regional School Committee directed Superintendent Michael Morris to pursue the eight-lane track and artificial turf field, with an understanding that there is close to the $2.2 million in community funds necessary from a combination of sources, including $957,500 from Amherst’s Community Preservation Act account, $900,000 in free cash from Amherst and $11,000 from Pelham’s CPA account. At that time, the Boosters had fallen somewhat short of a $331,000 goal the four towns that make up the region have already approved $1.5 million in borrowing.
During a Regional School Committee meeting last week, Tom Fanning, one of the two Pelham representatives, provided a list of items to discuss and called for a hearing on the track.
“I would also like to see us hold a public hearing on the decision to use artificial turf on the high school track renovation project,” Fanning said.Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.