WESTFIELD — After a final pitch from members of the girls softball, soccer and lacrosse teams, the City Council on June 6 passed the second and final vote for an $11.1 million bond to build a new track and field stadium, and refurbish two other athletic fields, at Westfield High School.

Before the athletes spoke, Councilor Ralph Figy took a moment to congratulate the WHS Bombers softball team on its four-peat of the Class A Western Massachusetts title.

Sophia Svantesson, a member of the Westfield High School softball team that just won the Class A Western Massachusetts title for the fourth year in a row, urged the City Council on June 6 to support new athletic fields at WHS.
Photo credit: Westfield Community Programming

“It’s one thing to go back-to-back, but to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back is unheard of,” Figy said.

One member of the championship softball team, and also captain of the girls varsity soccer team, then came forward to advocate for the $11 million field project, which would refurbish the girls athletic field and Boardman Field on the Montgomery Road campus.

Sophia Svantesson, a rising senior, told the story of a ninth grader who was injured during a softball practice four days before team tryouts. She tripped on a hole and won’t be able to play until next spring.

“Our field is covered with hardly visible holes,” Svantesson said, which she called a significant safety concern that puts the team on an unequal playing field in competition. “Even with these disadvantages, our team has been extremely successful. We won the Class A Western Mass. title for the past four years, and in 2022 was the first Westfield High School girls team to win a state championship. The next year we came back to the same exact field even with a state championship under our belt.”

Svantesson said she knows she won’t get to play on the new fields. However, she said along with being a player, she is also a teammate, a captain and an older sister.

“I have a younger brother who’s a freshman and deserves a nice track to run on,” she said.

She said, as the mayor says, “Once a Bomber, always a Bomber,” and urged the council to vote in favor of the new sports fields. The council did so by an 11-1 margin.

Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane, chair of the Finance Committee, was the sole “no” vote for the bond at the meeting, and said her objection was to the size of the borrowing.

Matthews-Kane had expressed worry about the funding mechanism for paying off the bonds. Westfield Gas & Electric has agreed to increase its payment in lieu of taxes by $1 million per year, and that money will be used to pay principal and interest on the bonds. But Matthews-Kane said although WG&E officials have said they’ll keep paying for the life of the bond, there’s no guarantee that a future Municipal Light Board wouldn’t reverse that decision.

“I am excited for the new fields,” she said, but added, “It’s too big a package.” Earlier in the process, she had argued for a smaller bond to cover the track and field stadium alone.

Councilor Brent Bean, a vocal advocate for the fields who had been in on the discussions from the beginning, thanked everyone for their support at the meetings. He also thanked the city’s legal team for answering a question regarding the conservation restrictions in place in 2009 when the city bought Boardman Field. He said the field work is “long overdue.”

The vote in favor of the bonding was 11-1, with Councilor Kristen Mello absent. Councilor Richard Sullivan said he was “all in on day one — correcting issues that weren’t addressed in 1973 when they built the high school the first time and didn’t put in good playing fields.”

He said the project showed the importance of having a locally owned utility company. WG&E is using profits from its Whip City Fiber broadband networks to fund the $1 million per year pledge.

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