Editor’s Note: 05/09/22 at 9:04 a.m.: An original version of this article included a quote by Professor Aaron Kitch that was changed for an unspecified amount of time between Sunday 05/08/22 and Monday 05/09/22 due to an error. This change has been reversed.
This weekend, concerned neighbors of the College will meet to discuss Bowdoin’s plan to expand Farley Field House and redevelop the surrounding fields.
A poster has circulated around the neighborhood near the College highlighting the potential changes. These include implementing high-intensity outdoor lighting and replacing existing grass with synthetic turf fields, which would enable practices and games to extend into evening hours. The poster highlighted that these changes could lead to increased noise and light pollution, loss of trees and environmental damage to the Mare Brook Watershed.
The College confirmed that it is in the early stages of planning the redevelopment of the area.
“We hope to start that project in the summer of 2023. But right now, we’re looking to engage a consultant and develop the refinement of the concept plan and develop actual construction documents, and we’ll be back to the board sometime next year,” Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando said.
The Department of Athletics hopes to engage with the College on construction plans to prioritize student interest.
“We are in the late stages of the conceptual planning process and having conversations about moving into the next stage and narrowing the focus—thinking about projects that may be of interest to try to improve the experience of our students,” Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said.
Orlando and Ryan declined to comment on the specifics of the plan for this article.
Neighbors of Farley Field House and Pickard Field complex expressed their frustration at these potential plans and the effects they would have on the environment and their quality of life.
Associate Professor of English Aaron Kitch, who lives adjacent to Pickard Field, expressed concerns about the environment.
“We’re concerned about changes to the fields, and to the lighting. What we want is to try to retain a special, historical character of the fields, which includes their natural setting and the handcrafted dugouts. I think the last thing anyone wants is an industrial scale project with lots of metal and artificial turf that is not used more than a handful of times a year,” Kitch said.
When Kitch learned about these plans, he contacted Ryan and Orlando to share his concerns. Ryan and Orlando responded by showing him the conceptual plan.
Rebecca Morrell and Eddie Kingman, who recently moved to Brunswick, also expressed concerns about these redevelopments. They bought Morrell’s childhood home from her grandparents—a home that faces the college’s baseball diamond.
“We’re worried about the noise pollution, and then light pollution. We already hear loud and clear quite obnoxious baseball music and the music on the turf field [already] there with lacrosse and field hockey games. I mean, sometimes we’re even woken up by it. We can hear it loud and clear in our bedroom. And the lights on that field [shine] very bright into our bedroom as well. So that’s a problem, and [we’re] concerned about more lights and more noises closer to our home,” Morrell said.
They learned about these plans from neighbors who are organizing against these efforts and hoping to maintain the current landscape. They will be meeting on Saturday to discuss their collective options.
Kitch and Kingman are both concerned that the College is attempting to compete with Colby College, which recently built a $200 million athletics and recreation center.
“Are we just in an arms race with Colby and Bates and other colleges that have grandstands? Is this really something that’s going to make a difference? Are the academics underperforming the athletic performance of the teams? Are we really doing what’s right for the College as a whole and not just for those athletes who use the fields for practice and games?” Kitch said.
According to Morrell and Kingman, the College is planning on expanding the fieldhouse towards the west. The overall impact would be brighter lights, a geothermal energy plant right in front of their home and a louder environment if the College moves forward with its current concept plan.
Morrell and Kingman want the College to reevaluate its plans to focus on the concerns expressed by neighbors who are directly impacted by these decisions year-round.
“Think about the broader community who are here using this space, building community on this open space every single day. Consider the environmental impact—is now really the time to be building more buildings and taking away green space? Or is it a time to be encouraging people to think more responsibly about the environment?” Kingman said. “Just consider the long-term impact that it’s going to have on the broader community and environment.”