Belair Defends Decision On Thanksgiving Game

Students Submit Petition With 265 Signatures

Last week, Superintendent Jerome Belair would not be played on Waterford High School’s new turf field as planned, due to safety reasons. Instead, the game would be played at East Lyme High School for the second year in a row.

Thursday, two Waterford High School football players submitted a petition with 265 signatures from high school students at the Board of Education meeting, asking Belair to reconsider his decision.

“We went around school, and we got people to sign this petition,” Zachary Cash said. “We wanted to submit it to you.”

But Belair, despite the plea, stuck with his original decision. While it is “disappointing,” the site is not safe enough to host an event with up to 5,000 people, Belair said.

“I think the key here is really the balancing act of hosting a game here in Waterford and taking into consideration a very active construction site,” he said. “It is not an easy decision but it is one that has to be made.”

The Reasons

For example, there is no fence between the stands and the field, Belair said. So the crowd would have to be held back by volunteers or their own restraint, he said.

If the site had to be evacuated, the two exit walkways are narrow considering the amount of people who could be at the event, School Building Committee Chairman Alan Wilensky said. 

But the most dangerous problem is the two large retention basins at both sides of the field, Wilensky said. Many kids go to the event, and if one of them fell in after it rained, he or she could drown, he said.

“Heaven forbid, an 8-year-old or a 5-year-old is running around, and face plants into that basin,” Wilensky said. “It would just be tragic.”

To top it off, the school has no public announcement system, which would have to be rented, Belair said.

“If the police chief and the fire marshal and the town planner tell you it is not a good idea, you have to listen to the experts,” Wilensky said.

Other Locations?

Tonight’s homecoming game is being held at the Coast Guard Academy, Belair said. That was considered as an option for the Thanksgiving game, although that costs $2,000, he said.

New London High School's field was also considered, but that had seating constraints, Belair said. After all was considered, it was best to go to East Lyme, where the team has a tendency to win anyway, he said.

“I talked to Athletic Director Dave Sousa, and Coach (Mike) Ellis, and they both said we ought to follow tradition,” Belair said. “We win on the road, and we lose at home, and I think we are going to beat East Lyme.”

Editor's Note: There is no cost for renting the field at the Coast Guard. The $2,000 cost is associated with all the other costs involved in hosting a football game.

klc October 28, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Seating Constraints at NL? Are you kidding me? NL is at Norwich this year, it may not be home but its close enough.
fedspy October 28, 2011 at 03:49 PM
get real, ever hear of temporary fencing, volunteers to protect danger area, bullhorns to keep people informed, its just a cya, there are adults here, not all children, have the game in waterford, class of 63.
klc October 29, 2011 at 09:07 AM
Ummmm in The Day. The Coast Guard confirmed that Waterford got to use the field for home coming rent free.http://www.theday.com/article/20111029/SPORT03/310299861/1044
Paul Petrone (Editor) October 29, 2011 at 11:24 AM
It costs $2,000 to run the game though (me and The Day both got some misinformation, we both thought it was for rent but then found out later it was for all other costs). Yes, the field is rent-free, but just throwing the game, with officials and cops and everything else costs $2,000, according to Superintendent Belair. At East Lyme, East Lyme absorbs those costs, he said.
John Yannacci, Sr. October 29, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Mr. Petrone, It is not "me and The Day..." It's "The Day and I..." We're talking fourth grade English here. Also, you can leave out the word "both" as it is implied.
John Yannacci, Sr. October 29, 2011 at 11:46 AM
Sorry, I ended the second sentence with a preposition. Assume I omitted it.
dw October 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM
It seems to me this was clearly not a priority and should never of been put out there if it wasn't truly going to happen , In all the years of planning, design, engineering, bidding and award; there was plenty of time to consider and plan for this rival event. Furthermore there are numerous way to mitigate the few items of concern. I find it ironic that all the field hockey home games have been played amongst the construction. All team members,coaches, spectators, children and grandparents had to skirt the retension basins, trudge throught the mud and cavernous rip-rap and be ridiculed by contractors. Once again a low priority and lack of planning has been demonstrated by our town.
fedspy October 31, 2011 at 02:47 PM
ditto, dw, you are with it. if costs is what's bothering mr. belair , i will donate the $2000 if you honor mr. holm's on thanksgiving day at the waterford field. get with the program mr. belair, its not just another thanksgiving day football game. be a leader and be bold. it can be done, i am sure if there is a will, there is a way. please, mr. yannacci, save your comments for another topic. you missed the whole point of the article.
klc October 31, 2011 at 03:04 PM
I guess what I do not understand is the lack of effort period. Another quote from the Bulletin: Contrary to published reports, Sousa said the Academy offered the facility free of charge to the Lancers for Friday night’s game with Killingly. “No money whatsoever,” Sousa said. “They never approached us about money. They said, ‘This is free, and whatever extra cost there is, it’s on us.’ ” The kids had a great time and loved playing on the field. So why not make an effort to go back there on Thanksgiving day if safety is a concern. EL has terrible seating conditions for visiting teams. Seems like there is some tug of war going on and the ones being hurt are the kids.
John Yannacci, Sr. October 31, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Steve Onuparik, Who exactly do you think you are to tell me to save my comments for another topic? I'll write what and when I want. And, if I want or need your advice on anything, I'll ask. But don't hold your breath. When the heck did you become the thought police? And, by the way, if you hold down the shift key when you are typing a letter you get what is called a "capital letter". You should try it some time.
BJ October 31, 2011 at 09:20 PM
HELLO... it is NOT about "safety" it is about POWER! Belair loves the power; he is in control, what could be better than that? When has any "educator" or politician ever used common sense?
WjWfWg November 03, 2011 at 02:23 AM
DW you are soo right. The Girls Field Hockey team played all season trudging thru the mud to get to their so-called field, baseball field == didn't even bother to fill the baseline with grass!! goals were mudpits!! Very dangerous to play on... Long roundabout walk from the parking lot for the guests, whether they were opposition's guests or our girls' family and friends. Opposing team got to see firsthand where girls' sports fits in this town. By the way, Mr. Wilensky, no one "face planted" in the basin. Interesting that the concerns that surround the Football Game didn't matter for the Field Hockey team.....


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