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.”
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.
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.