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Though unapproved, new fields at Hingham High raise $500K

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 5, 2013 04:44 PM

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The Hingham High School fields project has yet to receive full town approval, but that hasn’t stopped Hingham parents from raising money for it.

At a fund-raising party on March 2, Hingham parents raised approximately half a million dollars for the project, which seeks to do significant updates to an athletic complex next to Hingham High.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Christine Falvey, chairwoman of the Big Green Committee, the organization that put on the fund-raiser. “Our group didn’t get together till a month ago to decide to do this to raise some funds. It came together very quickly and the community was very supportive.”

As it stands before the town, the project has a menu of amenities to choose from, with all of them up for a vote at Town Meeting in April.

Most of the upgrades will be voted up or down, including a multipurpose field, reconstructed baseball field, relocation of the JV softball field, new bleachers, landscaping, concession stand, and a PA system.

The town will also have to conduct parking upgrades and the installation of rest rooms.

School Committee members are choosing to let the community vote separately on whether or not there should be lights, and if there should be artificial turf or a grass field.

With such a lengthy list of desires and necessities, the price for the project has ballooned up to an estimated $4.5 million, and Hingham sports proponents are still unsure how much the town will contribute.

“It was never the intention of this group to raise enough money to pay for the project,” Falvey said. “When we started to talk about it … in October 2011, we talked about this project as a public/private partnership with no definition of what percent public and private, and we’ve moved forward with that understanding.”

In the past, School Committee members have said they hope the town will pay for the “basic amenities” of the project, which includes a field with a fence around it, bleachers, and some type of public address system.

School Superintendent Dorothy Galo has previously said that the community should look to fund additional things, such as lights and turf.

In addition to the cost uncertainty, a group of neighbors has been against the idea of a bigger project from the start, and is expected to voice their opposition to the project during Town Meeting.

Regardless, Falvey said, the group is doing as much fund-raising as possible to support the project.

“It’s a unique situation. We’re asking people to make donations for a project that hasn’t passed. But at the same time, this public/priate partnership, we don’t have a choice,” Falvey said.

That private fund-raising began with the massive soiree at Hingham Shipyard on a Saturday night, where 500 people came out to eat food from Wahlburgers, dance to music by The Back Nine, and enjoy libations courtesy of Bill Burke from Burke Distributing, Rob Gillooly from Bay State Wine and Spirits.

“What we’ve been saying to people making donations is if the School Committee articles don’t get passed, and we don’t know if they will be passed in April, people’s money will be refunded, and if they are [passed], that’s great. We have the money and we’ll be able to move forward,” Falvey said.

Along with the ticket sales from the March event, which were sold at $25 a ticket, the Great Big Green has also kicked off a donate a bleacher seat campaign, selling those at $250 apiece.

According to Falvey, “160 seats were sold and number of other people … stepped up with other donations, not related to a seat, but making a donation for larger sums."

The donations were still being counted early this week, though by Monday, estimates were already as high as $500,000. Even with that success, Falvey said the campaign will continue.

“The donate-a-seat campaign is going to be made publically available to anyone in our community. A huge number of people who attended party who had friends or who were blocked out from ticket sales wanted to make a donation to a seat,” Falvey said

It is an optimistic effort, and Falvey said her expectations were high as the town cautiously moves forward.

“I think that for a vast majority of people, they look at this as a project that is so long overdue… I go to all the meetings myself, I know there is a small group of opponents against the project, but the vast majority of people I hear from support the project,” she said.

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