NP school officials try to balance use of fields as sports teams flourish

NP school officials try to balance use of fields as sports teams flourish

NORTH PROVIDENCE - With a severely limited amount of field space available in town, school officials are working on rearranging their field usage schedule in order to accommodate the growing number of sports teams within the district.

Supt. Melinda Smith, the Building Sub-Committee and members of town and school youth sports organizations met Thursday night to discuss the growing problem.

"North Providence has wonderful athletic programs within our schools and within our private organizations and with that we thank you for all the hard work you did for our community," Smith said. "We do have issues with the use of fields and they are so sparse and everybody wants to have some playing times and practice times."

Glen Williams, athletic director for North Providence High School, said the sports teams at the high school use the fields on campus for football, soccer and lacrosse. He said the football team utilizes the upper field, or football field, for games and the lower field, or baseball field, for practices.

Additionally, the soccer team will play games at the high school but must travel to Ricci Middle School for practice.

"But my problem is if we're going to have a middle school soccer team, where do my varsity teams practice then?" Williams asked Smith, who, alongside the School Committee, approved new girls' soccer teams at the two middle schools.

One solution would be to have his soccer team practice at Stephen Olney Park instead, Williams said.

The team practiced there in the past but parents complained about traveling to pick up their teenagers, he said.

He told Smith that he and Supt. of Buildings Jim Fuoroli would visit the park and analyze whether or not it would be appropriate for his soccer practices.

Tony Fernandes, president of the North Providence Youth Soccer Association, said he has approximately 400 children playing soccer at Ricci Middle School in the fall and spring through his organization.

As it sits now, he said, the organization is seeking another night to practice and was considering using the gym at Ricci for indoor soccer on Friday nights, while the basketball organization would use it on Saturday.

Steve Palmieri, School Committee member, questioned Fernandes about playing soccer inside the brand new gym.

Also, he said, having people practice in the gym on Saturday would cost the school district an additional $5,000 in overtime pay to the janitors.

Fernandes said, "I spoke with somebody from the basketball league and the reason I did that is because it was out of respect, not to go behind anybody's back. I asked him if he had a day available and he said he'd let me use his Friday, and he'd go on Saturday. I didn't know it'd be a cost to the School Department."

While the gym at Ricci is new, Fernandes said the ball used during practice drills is weighted and would not bounce around and destroy the walls or lights. In addition, the players would wear indoor soccer sneakers, which mirror basketball shoes.

During a previous School Committee meeting, members discussed and approved the transformation of the field at Ricci from soccer to baseball.

"That'll put a big impact on us. What will I do with the children? I understand it's school grounds but we've been doing it for over 15 years at that field," Fernandes said.

He said he did not want to "cut" into the school programs but if Ricci field gets switched to baseball or used by the middle school girls' soccer team, there will be no other place for his teams to practice.

Roderick DaSilva, School Committee member, told Fernandes that the Ricci field would not be converted to baseball because the field needs a backstop and a new sprinkler system, costing the district too much money.

Ralph Simonelli, who represented American Legion and Connie Mack baseball, said the high school baseball field is the only regulation-sized diamond in town.

"There is too much congestion; we have to figure out a way to work with the other leagues," he said.

Sal Piccirillo, president of North Providence West Little League, said his teams use Centredale Elementary School, the upper portion of Stephen Olney and Evans Field for practices and games.

He said Centredale Elementary School's field is open in the fall, and suggested that one of the other sports organizations check into it.

DaSilva said the Babe Ruth League might be able to use Birchwood Middle School for games.

While nothing was finalized during the meeting, Smith said changes will be coming and told members of the various organizations to research times and field usage for their teams in order to collaborate in the future months.

Comments

Does it make sense to anyone that the football team practices on the BASEBALL field? If they football team uses the football field for games and practices, that opens up the baseball field for lacrosse and soccer. Damn it, I'm a genius.
Parents don't want to pick up their kids at Stephen Olney park because of the traveling? The park is a 1/4 mile away from the high school!!!!! Talk about lazy. Just stop the stupidity please.