WESTFIELD- Mayor Brian P. Sullivan met with a group headed by City Councilor Brent B. Bean II that is meant to tackle the issue of quality and maintenance of certain playing fields in Westfield Tuesday morning.
For the last eight months, Bean has been the head of a small working group of people who are tasked with the maintenance and upkeep of sports fields in the city. The main focus is on Billy Bullens Field but there are others as well.
There have been many complaints over the last couple of years over the quality of Bullens Field and others. Some of the complaints have come from members of the teams and groups that frequent the field. One of the major problems with the fields, however, stems from how heavily it is used, according to Bean.
“Those fields get heavily used. Not having a turf facility hurts,” said Bean.
For eight months, there has been a policy of reducing the amount of usage Bullens Field can get. At the same time, there have been more applications of fertilizer and general maintenance so that the field can be more usable and in better shape in the future.
That future may be another calendar year, said Bean, referencing the meeting he and his group had with Sullivan. In the meantime, some teams will need to utilize the Roots Athletic Facility. Bean did note that even when the fields are in better shape, some teams may opt to keep using Roots, as he thinks a turf facility in Westfield is at least five years away.
According to Chris Thompson, of the Westfield Starfires baseball team, there are about a couple hundred baseball games played at Bullens Field each year, just 28 of them are played by the Starfires.
Bean said that the breaking point that led to the forming of the group was when he learned that a track team in town was using the third floor hallways of the high school for practice.
In order to keep the fields at Bullens from being at this same point again in the future, more limits may have to be put on its use. Bean said that youth groups may not be allowed to use the field in the future to help with that limit.
“It’s going to upset some people down the road, but we will have to say no to some organizations who want to use the fields,” said Bean.
At the moment, there is little rhyme or reason on how the fields are scheduled for use. Going forward, the role of scheduling the field use will fall under the responsibility of the Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy athletic director.
Bean said he thinks a turf field should be something the city prioritizes in the near future, as he thinks youth athletics are important for the city. He noted that it will depend on the next mayor and city council to do so.
“Every other town around us has a turf field and a new high school,” said Bean, “So we really need to make that a priority going forward.”
Bean said that one of the reasons for the drop in field quality in recent years has been the climate. Last summer was especially bad for the grass, especially heavily used grass like that of Bullens baseball and football fields. Additionally, he said that just a few years ago there was a budget hearing in which fertilizer for the fields was cut from the budget. The lack of fertilizer lasted just one year, but it continues to affect the field to this day.