Bowen Field Rehab Delayed Another Year

Melissa Bailey PhotosTrack runners and football players will have to wait until August 2015 to return to a renovated Bowen Field, as the city pursues a $4 million plan to haul away polluted debris to Ohio.

Schools Superintendent Garth Harries announced that news at Monday’s school board meeting at Hill Regional Career High School.

Bowen Field, which sits on Crescent Street adjacent to Hillhouse High School, has been closed to make way for a planned $11.6 million renovation, being paid for mostly by the state. Plans call for replacing the track, tearing down old bleachers, adding new lights, and replacing the grass football field with turf. The project will enable Hillhouse High’s football team, which uses Bowen as its home field, to start playing night games under the lights.

The renovations hit a snag last summer, when the city discovered pollutants called PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the track and bleachers, according to schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith. The city last August shut down the park, including the locker rooms, football field, and the popular running track, which was open to the public.

The field has remained fenced off, and renovations have been stalled since then.

Construction was originally slated to begin this past winter, and wrap up by the fall of 2014. Now the district is shooting to reopen the park by August of 2015, Harries said.

Harries announced that news in response to concerns raised by Chandra Johnson, a 1983 Hillhouse High graduate whose son now plays on the ‘House football team. Johnson showed up at Monday’s school board meeting to plead to with the school board to speed up the project.

Since the fall of 2012, the Hillhouse football team has been exiled from its home field, Johnson said. The team has been practicing on nearby baseball fields and playing its games on borrowed turf in West Haven or at Wilbur Cross High.

Johnson, who lives in Newhallville, said she has seen how blighted buildings can drag down a neighborhood.

“Some things just sit and sit and sit,” she said. “I don’t want this to sit and sit and sit.”

“It just hurts my heart that it is sitting there,” Johnson told the board.

Johnson, an active parent, used to run a concession stand during home games. She has not been able to do so when Hillhouse holds games on borrowed turf in West Haven. She urged the board to “get a bulldozer” and clear the way for renovations.

Superintendent Harries agreed the project needs to move forward.

“That’s an important resource not just to the schools, but to the community,” he said.

“So, we’re going to get a football field?” Johnson replied.

Mayor Toni Harp stepped in with an update: She said the city has been seeking extra money to pay for the cost of remediation. Harp, who used to be chair of the powerful General Assembly Appropriations Committee in Hartford, said she plans to get the state to cover that cost.

Smith said the school district hired environmental consultant Eagle Environmental, Inc. “to conduct routine pre-construction testing for regulated building materials, including PCBs, asbestos and lead. Many of the samples tested did not detect any elevated levels of regulated building materials.” But the group did detect PCBs in several areas: in the track, in the caulk that holds the bleachers together, and in the paint on the exterior of the locker rooms. Because of the potential health hazards of those PCBs, the school district took the “precautionary step” of closing off the field, she said.

Smith said the district still needs to clear its remediation plan with the Environmental Protection Agency, then go to bid in search of a company to do the work. The work is estimated to cost $4 million, Smith said.

“That cost is mainly driven by the need to demolish in a certain way and to transport the contaminated debris and soil to an approved PCB landfill in Ohio,” Smith wrote in an email.

Construction was originally slated to begin this past winter and be done by fall of 2014, according to Smith. Harries said the district is now hoping to welcome Hillhouse High’s football team back to its home turf in time for the football season to begin in August of 2015.

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posted by: wendy1 on April 16, 2014  9:22am

The whole city sits on brownfield near a superfund site called English station.  We have the worst air pollution on the east coast.  If the city tested soil ANYWHERE they would get the same results so they should just open that field.  All city projects seem to be on hold indefinitely because of “lack of funds”.

Very demoralizing.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on April 16, 2014  9:53am

So they are going to haul the polluted dirt to Ohio?  What has Ohio done to deserve this?

posted by: mm on April 16, 2014  9:53am

“Johnson, an active parent, used to sell concessions to raise money for the school during games”

Where’s the editor?  Johnson did not sell concessions to raise money for the school.  A concession stand is operated by a 3rd party, not the venue, to sell snacks and/or souvenirs at a profit.

While sports might be important to the high school, so is turning out educated students who can properly use the English language.  The Independent has an obligation to do the same.

[Editor’s note: Duly noted. Thanks.]

posted by: robn on April 16, 2014  11:18am

There’s a kindof rustic charm to the gatehouse…too bad it couldn’t be saved.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on April 16, 2014  12:45pm


Could you please provide the source for the Gatehouse is being demolished as part of this project? Thanks.

posted by: robn on April 16, 2014  3:21pm


I jumped to that conclusion because the article mentioned PCB laden “paint on the exterior of the locker rooms” which I thought was the dogleg building off the back of the gatehouse. Hope I’m wrong.

posted by: Nan Bartow on April 16, 2014  4:42pm

Robn and Jonathan,
In the architectural plans the locker rooms will come down but the gatehouse and its fence are supposed to be saved.  There is no money to improve the interior, but the shell of the gatehouse will be preserved and a new roof put on.  If you have further questions, check with the Board of Education or Alderwoman Claudette Robinson Thorpe.

posted by: NewHaven06513 on April 17, 2014  10:07am

Please do not allow our kudos athletics to be pushed aside. Our kids need positive outlets. Athletics is expensive but a cost I’m willing to pay!

We have all New Haven High School, Middle School and Pop Warner games played at Cross now. Can we please get TURF this way our kids can play on something other than mud? The field cannot sustain that much use.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 17, 2014  1:25pm

This is another project that was poorly conceived, rushed to funding, inadequately researched with incorrect assumptions and now we know, a price tag much larger than originally envisioned. What’s new in Old Haven or the BOE?