Sports teams fight for field space
FAIRFIELD — There are 36 different playing fields in town — with Little League, softball, lacrosse, soccer and football teams clamoring to play on them.
For teams made up of 100 percent Fairfield residents, it’s an easy enough task: They will get a blanket permit for the fields they need for the entire season. But for newer teams and those with out-of-town players, booking field time comes with challenges.
It’s up to Parks and Recreation Department staff and Assistant Director Galyen Brown to assign field usage. “I’m the main point of contact for larger leagues that do the blanket permit,” Brown said.
There is an additional ranking system for assigning field usage, with first dibs going to the school board for high school programs, and then to programs sponsored by the Recreation Department. Next are the “outside” leagues and, even then, it can be hard for newer teams to get field space.
“Fairfield Youth Lacrosse is 100 percent Fairfield residents,” Parks and Recration Director Anthony Calabrese said.
With 960 members, it is probably one of the larger groups fighting for space, but because it is a relatively new organization, “They fall a little lower in the pecking order,” Brown said, and have to rent field time at places like Wakeman Boys & Girls Club and Fairfield Prep.
With some out-of-towners on their roster, Fairfield American Little League will spend the spring season making reservations every two weeks. There is a chance they won’t always be successful — they’re not the only group looking for playing time that cannot get a blanket permit, such as the American Legion team or Fairfield Rage baseball teams. Lacrosse teams are also looking for field space, and so is Fairfield United Soccer.
Even a parent wanting to reserve a field to play catch or Whiffle Ball can make a reservation that leaves a Fairfield American team out in the cold.
However, finding more field space will not come easy. There is one softball field at Dougiello Field that, Calabrese said, was supposed to be several fields. “If we added something, it would be at the Parcell’s property, next to Dougiello Field. There’s a lot of land up there.”
It was originally envisioned as an athletic complex with more than one field, he said, but neighborhood opposition and cost questions led to the plans being scaled back.
Now, Calabrese said, it may be time for the town to start lighting some of the fields to extend their usage.
“The Tomlinson (Middle School) turf field is the best example,” he said. Since it is turf, rain doesn’t make the field unusable. “If we put lights there, we could keep it open until 9 or 10.”
There are some lighted fields in town — the high school football fields and the Tom Hayden softball field on Old Dam Road.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said it would be the least-expensive way to add more field space in a town that seems to have more youth and adult sports teams every year.
“I believe with the latest technology, field lights can be installed with minimal off-site light impact,” Tetreau said. “If this is possible, this would allow us to get more use of an expensive asset and be a real benefit to the community.”