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Manchester soccer field dug up in planning mix-up

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 19. 2017 12:40AM
John Kenyon, left, and Nick Gardner, board members of the Manchester South Junior Soccer League, stand by the dug up field, left, and the new bike path at Precourt Park in Manchester on Thursday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — City officials and a Manchester developer scrambled this week to address the scalping of a lush soccer field at Precourt Park, a mishap that threatened play just before the season opens Aug. 25.

On Monday, leaders and coaches with the Manchester South Junior Soccer League discovered an unsightly pit of dirt along the edge of one of the two soccer fields that the league manages.

But by Friday, one of the league coaches had laid sod and Manchester developer Dick Anagnost signaled he would cover the cost of the repair. Anagnost and Brady-Sullivan Properties are redeveloping the Osram-Sylvania plant, just to the north of Precourt Park, into a shopping center. A sidewalk between the two South Soccer fields is part of their project.

Anagnost said he would pay for the sod, but stressed that his contractor had dug up the turf at the direction of the city.

“I’m a good neighbor, and I think the children in the soccer league deserve a good field to play on,” he said.

City officials acknowledge problems finalizing the exact path for the sidewalk, and said they should have involved the soccer league when plans were drawn up for the park.

“That was our mistake, not contacting the league and bringing them into the picture earlier,” said Kevin Sheppard, director of public works for the city.

As part of the redevelopment, the city required Anagnost and Brady-Sullivan to build a sidewalk to link a rail trail, which runs behind the soccer fields, to South Willow Street. Anagnost said his contractor followed city directions, which called for him to swing the sidewalk away from a concession stand.

But the path took away the sidelines, where parents watch their children play, and grazed the field of play, league officials said. By Thursday, city officials had redrawn the sidewalk alongside the concession stand and already laid the asphalt. But a trench for the initial path — about 12-feet wide at its widest point — had already been dug.

“It will be a mud pit,” said Nick Gardner, director of player development for South Soccer. “It’s bad enough that if a kid’s running down the field (and hits the dirt) it’s a problem.”

He said about 300 children have already signed up for the league.

John Kenyon, a coach and member of the board, laid down the sod on the dirt pit Friday. The owner of Kenyon Lawn and Property Maintenance, Kenyon said he expects that Anagnost will cover the $3,680 cost of the project.

He said he did his best to secure the sod and placed caution tape around it. It normally takes about three weeks for sod to take, so he’s keeping his fingers crossed.

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