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Farley renovations spark anger from neighbors

May 6, 2022

Amira Oguntoyinbo
STANDING GUARD Brunswick community members are up in arms over the announced Pickard Field complex renovations. A town hall was held on Wednesday at Brunswick Town Hall.

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.”

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12 comments:

  1. Bowdoin Baseball Player says:

    This is totally ridiculous. We play on one of the worst baseball fields in the entire country and being in Maine, we were unable to even get onto our field until mid-April. The quotes in this article are disgustingly selfish, as these “life altering changes” they believe are going to be made are not accurate and even if so, they would be effect them for two months out of the year on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Please do better, Brunswick. This is not a Mall of America being built on your land, it is simply a turf baseball field that does nothing but benefit our program and school.

  2. Class of 1792 says:

    Next time the English department needs a renovation I think baseball should have a say. If you don’t like Bowdoin Athletics, just say it. No need for excuses like the “historic dugouts” you oddly cherish. Luckily, the field is going to be built regardless and I hope the lights end up being a little bit brighter as a result of these complaints. Invest in some eco-friendly blinds.

  3. Class of 2018 says:

    This is a comical, yet completely predictable response to a reasonable and necessary renovation by the College. Let’s remind ourselves that the folks quoted in this article choose to live in close proximity to campus and benefit greatly from the various amenities offered by the College. We should not let a classic case of self-important NIMBYism impede the development of these Bowdoin-owned facilities.

  4. Old timer says:

    Oh my, the level of ignorance on the part of the Bowdoin prof and the neighbors is extraordinary. Pickard Field has been constantly evolving since its long-ago inception. Before the creation of Farley Field House, the only building on the site was a tiny field house. There was no hockey rink, track facility, squash courts, or swimming pool. There was no student housing or parking lot. There was no softball field. And so on. And of course the “handcrafted” baseball dugout is hardly “historic,” having been built within the past decade or so. The neighbors should not be surprised to learn that there will be yet more changes at Pickard Field to do basic things like provide a proper baseball diamond that can be used during Brunswick’s difficult spring. And nor should they be surprised that the facilities at Pickard Field will continue to be expanded. Conversely, the college can and should listen to legitimate concerns about excessive and unnecessary noise created by any new sound system. The same thing wrt new outdoor lights. But the idea that the college should be barred from updating its now aging athletic facilities at Pickard Field is over the top.

  5. Happy Neighbor says:

    As a neighbor of Bowdoin College, the worst sound I ever heard coming from the Bowdoin athletic fields was the silence of 2020.

    The best was when I once again heard the voices, music and cheers of Bowdoin students living their lives right behind my house. Go U Bears!

  6. Student '20 says:

    The selfishness of the Brunswick NIMBY community never ceases to amaze. One would think a Bowdoin English professor could come up with something more creative than “preserving handcrafted dugouts” to disguise his selfish desire to retain his property’s value at the expense of hundreds of student-athletes who would use the new facility.

  7. Journalism 101 says:

    The original version of this article included a fairly incriminating and personal comment by the professor, questioning the academic vs. athletic performance of the teams. An post-edition edit has been made, and not duly noted at the top of the article so either 1) the professor said the quiet part out loud and asked the in-the-bag reporter to remove it, at risk of being caught in a unsubstantiated bind or 2) Orient reporters, writers and editors need to be better. Both are likely the case.

    Also, Morrell is lying about being woken up by “obnoxious baseball music and the music on the turf field” (read: modern, urban, and hip-hop music; take that insinuation for what it is…) a simple fact check could prove that music isn’t ever played prior to 10am in the morning on weekends and never after 7pm on weeknights.

    • administrator says:

      We appreciate your comment. The change was an error that has now been fixed.
      -Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey

  8. Class of 2020 says:

    Bowdoin baseball already has to bus up to Colby to play their “home” games for most of the spring. Although concerns about potential light pollution are warranted, maybe Morrell and Kingsman shouldn’t have bought a home next to college athletic facilities if they have all these “concerns.”

  9. Bowdoin parent says:

    Maybe when they remove the lights historic dugouts they can send them to the national dugout museum for preservation

  10. Journalism 201 says:

    It is disappointing, if not predictable, that The Orient staff did not consult their own body of work before agreeing to write this one-sided article.
    https://bowdoinorient.com/2019/03/01/winter-weather-restricts-field-access-farley-overcrowded

    How many faculty would sign up to teach their classes at Colby on a moment’s notice throughout the winter and spring? How many would be willing to hold class beginning at 10 PM because of lack of proper classroom facilities?

    • annoyed student says:

      It literally says Tim Ryan and Matt Orlando declined to comment on specifics, how is that their fault? I’m disappointed that our athletic department wouldn’t speak up.


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