TORRINGTON >> Take a long look at the Torrington High School’s Robert H. Frost Sports Complex.
As of May 7, good and bad memories alike disappear with the turn of a shovel, the first spade full of dirt toward completion of a $2.7 million renovation funded by the state.
The project was opened for bids Monday with completion scheduled for September 5.
The grant was pushed through by Torrington Representative Michelle Cook.
For coaches and hundreds of Red Raider athletes, it’s not a moment too soon.
“This track was built 25 years ago. It was state-of-the-art then,” said track and field coach Mike Tyler, who conducted a one-man tour of the changes Tuesday afternoon.
“I got here 14 years ago and it was in good shape, with no real work on it. In 2002, they covered it with an eighth of an inch of rubber, painted it and it looked brand new, but it wasn’t. We’ve had a frightening number of injuries over the last few years as the surface hardened.”
Now it returns to state-of-the-art.
The Turf Committee has worked on the project since last May. It’s chaired by Ed Arum, Torrington’s interim superintendent of schools twice after 15 years as Torrington’s business manager, then another 15 as assistant superintendent in Region 15 (Middlebury/Southbury).
He’s joined by nine knowledgeable committee members including coaches, director of facilities, town engineer, mayor’s assistant and board of education chairman.
The first step was hiring an architect, Gale Associates, based in Glastonbury, specialists in track and field projects.
The committee set out specifications, then modified plans.
“Our contract is the first one out for bids in Connecticut this year,” said Arum. “Two other towns have similar projects, but we’re first.”
All bidding contractors must be certified by the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services.
The committee conducts a walk-through for bidders April 11.
Here’s what they’ll hear:
The field will be eight feet wider. That meets FIFA standards for soccer fields, accommodates an eight lane track instead of six, and allows room for curtain drains around the inside of the track.
Bleachers will be widened and pushed back, starting even with the current light posts.
Press box space will double, with a division for coaches and the press.
Lights will be upgraded to state-of-the-art.
Foundations of various types of gravel begin eighteen inches below the surface, then a layer of rubberized urethane, then the turf on the field and an asphalt surface for the track that’s three quarters of an inch thick instead of the current quarter of an inch.
“The track will be comparable to New Britain Stadium or Middletown High School’s,” said Tyler. “The main thing for the field is the drainage,” said Arum. “You have to have excellent drainage; once you do, the surface goes right down.”
Other niceties include swing gates protecting the first three lanes of the track when it’s not in use, a straightaway in front of the bleachers instead of the opposite side of the track and football goal posts that swing away for soccer.
The only down side is interference with the Raiders’ home track and field schedule this spring.
“It won’t be long,” said Tyler, looking ahead to the NVL Tournament on May 28. “When you coach indoor track like I do, you get creative. All the fields will be available and (Athletic Director) Mike McKenna will talk with schools in the area about sharing their tracks when they’re not practicing.”
The up side is boundless.
“We’ll have fewer injuries. That makes for more kids and happier kids. It leads to better people,” said Coach Tyler, whose teams have compiled a 147-13 record since his arrival.
Initial turnout this year was 130 kids.