By Brian Zahn, New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN >> Construction on Bowen Field, the athletic field outside James Hillhouse High School, recently was completed after about 15 months of work, according to O&G Industries, the construction company contracted to do the job.
The project includes a newly renovated synthetic turf field, an eight-lane track, various lighting structures, locker rooms, bathrooms and bleachers.
The project had been delayed multiple times.
In August 2013, preparations for pre-construction by the school district for Bowen Field were underwayuntil preliminary testing found elevated levels of PCB in caulk joints of the bleachers and in the paint on the exterior of the locker rooms, according to the school district.
District spokeswoman Mercy Quaye said several sports teams have begun practicing on the field, and the district expects to open the field officially for full occupancy before the school year begins and after Gilbane Building Co., the company contracted by the district for capital projects, has checked over the project.
“Bowen Field has been a treasured New Haven landmark for decades, and for generations of city residents, providing athletic facilities for Hillhouse students and a recreational outlet for neighborhood residents,” Mayor Toni N. Harp said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the state funding received to underwrite this nearly two-year project, and with great respect for Bowen Field’s history, we look forward to new legends and new memories to be made in its renovated form.”
The field is not open to the public at this time.
“The project is absolutely on schedule” now, Quaye said.
Hillhouse football coach Reggie Lytle said he has not been privy to information about the field’s progress.
“It’s been a long, slow process,” Lytle said. “For the past three years going on four it’s been nothing but delays, issues or problems.”
Lytle said the first practice of the season will be Aug. 19, but he hopes to set up for practice before then. Should that fail, he’ll use the baseball field as his team has been doing, he said. Lytle said he was not ungrateful about progress, but he has been unhappy with the project. He said he is happy for the players, who will have the opportunity to play on their home field.
Board of Education member Darnell Goldson, whose constituents are in the area of Hillhouse, said as an alumnus he was disappointed during the Elm City Bowl that the field was not fully finished, “but I was happy we were able to play the game and I’m happy for the school and team that they will finally be able to play a full schedule of games.”
In November, the field was ready for use, but not the pavilion, and the bleachers still needed work, according to city officials.
The first high school event scheduled for Bowen Field is the Hillhouse vs. Creed-Career-Whitney Tech football game. Both teams use Bowen as their home field. Creed-Career-Whitney Tech is the scheduled home team for that game.
In October 2014, during a ground-breaking ceremony to announce rebuilding work, Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries said the goal was to have the field ready for the 2015 Elm City Bowl Classic on Nov. 26 against Wilbur Cross High School.
Many thought a group of Hillhouse seniors would go their entire scholastic playing careers without competing on the field.
Hillhouse went on to defeat Wilbur Cross in the Elm City Bowl in November 2015 as senior Tyler Williams caught two touchdown passes and earned defensive MVP honors in the only game he would be able to play on the field.
The Register reported in 2015 that the estimated cost of the project was roughly $12 million, with much of the cost reimbursable through state school construction grants.